The study in the journal Translational Psychiatry shows that elderly women living in areas of the United States where air pollution exceeded federal health standards were nearly twice as likely to develop dementia, as well as Alzheimer’s disease.
USC scientists released a new evidence showing that exposure to fine-particle air pollution may increase our risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
According to the study, women who had genes showing a predisposition for Alzheimer’s faced a greater risk. Experts specified, these women had a 263 percent increased risk for the disease.
The study presumes, if these findings hold up in the general population, air pollution may be to blame for about 21 percent of dementia cases.
“We really don’t know if the health goal is providing a safe margin for those with greater risk,” said Dr. Jiu-Chiuan Chen, a senior co-author of the study and a USC associate professor of preventive medicine in a statement
. “This is something that the policymakers need to be aware of.”
The researchers gathered health data of 3,647 elderly women, ages 65 to 79, in 48 states between 1999 and 2010. None of these patients had dementia when they enrolled in the research.
Chen’s colleagues then examined the brains of female mice that carry the genes associated with Alzheimer’s. For this study, experts exposed the mice to controlled amounts of fine-particle air pollution for 15 weeks.
The results showed, the exposed mice were 60 percent more likely to have amyloid plaques associated with Alzheimer disease in their brains, compared to mice that are not exposed to the pollution. These plaques are toxic, and cause the progressive decline of brain function, eventually leading to death.
“It is novel to see the use of both epidemiological and toxicological approaches together in the investigation, which adds to the strength of the study,” she said in an email.
Keith N. Fargo acknowledged the new research, but warned not to draw definite conclusions from the results. Fargo is the director of scientific programs and outreach at the Chicago-based Alzheimer’s Association.