Yet another study links air pollution to dementia

“Living near a major road” increases the risk of developing a neurodegenerative disease, such as dementia, a new study has revealed.

The paper, published by the University of British Columbia, adds to the growing body of evidence suggesting that air pollution may be a large driver of disease.

The researchers analysed the data of more than 678,000 adults living in Canada between 1999 and 2003, comparing factors such as illness rates and postcode.

The study found that those living within a 50-metre distance of a major road were more likely to be diagnosed with dementia, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s or Multiple Sclerosis. The research also found that living less than 150 metres from a motorway also increased the likelihood of disease.

Living near green spaces and parks, meanwhile, had “protective effects against developing these neurological disorders”, the researchers found.

“For the first time, we have confirmed a link between air pollution and traffic proximity with a higher risk of dementia, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and MS at the population level,” said lead author Weiran Yuchi.

“The good news is that green spaces appear to have some protective effects in reducing the risk of developing one or more of these disorders. More research is needed, but our findings do suggest that urban planning efforts to increase accessibility to green spaces and to reduce motor vehicle traffic would be beneficial for neurological health.”

Highlighting the positive impact of green space on physical health, the researchers reiterated the importance for city planners to “ensure they incorporate greenery and parks when planning and developing residential neighbourhoods”.

According to the latest statistics, there are currently around 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK. The Alzheimer’s Society, however, suggests this will increase to 1.6 million by 2040.

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