A new study has found that long-term exposure to fine particle air pollution can increase the risk of dementia and poor cognitive function by causing subtle changes in the structure of the brain.
The fine particle air pollution is defined as particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter (PM2.5). Scientists say this may be the most hazardous as well as common type of air pollution. Some of the main sources of such particle air pollution are burning coal or wood and car exhaust.
Elissa Wilker, lead study author and instructor of medicine at the Harvard Medical School, said, “Long-term exposure to air pollution showed harmful effects on the brain in this study, even at low levels, mainly with older people and even those who are relatively healthy.”
For the study, the researchers involved 943 healthy adults without stroke and dementia problem. The study participants belonged to the greater Boston area, New York and New England, the regions where levels of air pollution are low in comparison to other parts of the country and the world.
During the period between 1995 and 2005, the researchers used a technique called magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for the determination of effect of the long-term exposure to air pollution on the specific markers of brain structure.
It was found that a two microgram per cubic metre of air surge in particulate matter (PM) 2.5 was linked to a 0.32 percent smaller total cerebral brain volume and a 46 percent increased risk of covert infarcts in brain, which is a kind of silent stroke.
Wilker said, “The magnitude of association for brain volume was similar to nearly one year of brain ageing.”
Automobiles, industries are increasing the air pollution causing the imbalance in the environment. We have seen a lot of side effects due to air pollution and these continue to grow every year. More studies are being funded to make avoid the negative effects caused by air pollution.
The findings of the study were published in the journal Stroke.