"Air Quality and the Risk of Dementia", Domenico Pratico, MD, Temple University
Updated: Jun 10
Air pollution is a major public health issue that has been related to a variety of ailments such as asthma, lung cancer, heart disease, and stroke. Air pollution is projected to kill approximately 9 million people each year, and the World Health Organisation has designated it as the single greatest environmental health concern.
Recent research suggests a link between exposure to small air pollutants known as PM 2.5 particles and the development of dementia. According to a recent study published in the British Medical Journal that looked at 16 different observational studies, there is strong evidence for a biological relationship between PM 2.5 exposure and the onset of dementia. The authors discovered a 17% increase in the incidence of dementia for every 2 microgram increase in annual PM 2.5 exposure per cubic metre of air. According to the World Health Organisation, over 50 million individuals worldwide suffer from dementia, with this figure anticipated to triple by 2050.
While the Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to tighten air quality rules, it is estimated that up to 90-95% of the world's population is exposed to harmful levels of PM 2.5 particles. Although the mechanisms by which air pollutants affect the risk of dementia are not fully known, it is clear that these small particles can have a deleterious impact on brain function.
Reduced exposure to air pollution can have a substantial influence on public health, potentially helping to lower the global incidence of dementia. While reducing air pollution is a challenging issue, it is an important step towards improving public health and lowering the global burden of dementia. We can work towards a better future for ourselves and future generations by adopting individual and communal actions like walking, biking, or taking public transportation instead of driving can help cut pollution. Indoor air quality can also be improved by employing air purifiers and limiting the use of polluting goods like certain cleaning chemicals and paints.
Domenico Praticò, MD, is the Scott Richards North Star Charitable Foundation Chair for Alzheimer’s Research, Professor and Director of the Alzheimer’s Center at Temple, and Professor of Pharmacology at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University