US study suggests link between air pollution and neurological disorders

Air pollution has been linked to increased risk for first-time hospital admissions for Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and related dementias in a US study
Joe Gammie (PA)

A SIGNIFICANT link has been found between air pollution and an increased risk of hospital admissions for neurological disorders such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases, according to a new study.

Led by researchers at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, the study – published in The Lancet Planetary Health – looked at 17 years of hospital admission data from more than 63 million older US adults.

This was then linked to the estimated fine particulate (PM2.5) pollution concentrations by zip code.

Researchers found that for every five micrograms per cubic metre of air (?g/m3) increase in annual PM2.5 concentrations, there was a 13 per cent increased risk for first-time hospital admissions for Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and related dementias.

They said that the risk remained high even below the “supposedly safe” level of of 12 ?g/m3 or less, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Dr Stefan Reis, of the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, said: “This study contributes to the growing body of evidence which suggests that exposure to air pollution even at comparatively low concentrations has widespread negative health effects.

“While respiratory and cardio-vascular diseases have been well known to be linked to air pollution, showing links between exposure to fine particulate matter and brain health in a comprehensive study highlights the importance to act swiftly in reducing exposure, not only in hotspot areas.”

The study is the first nationwide analysis of the link between fine particulate pollution and neurodegenerative diseases in the US.

Women, white people, and urban populations were particularly susceptible, the study found.

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