Air pollution ‘likely’ to increase the risk of developing dementia, say experts
Air pollution is “likely” to increase the risk of having accelerated cognitive decline and suffering from dementia, a Government research group has said.
The Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants has published its findings were it concluded that pollutants affect blood flow to the brain and so increase the possibility of dementia.
It reviewed almost 70 studies which analysed how exposure to emissions affect the brain over time.
The 291-page report found that air pollution “likely” increases the risk of accelerated “cognitive decline” and of “developing dementia” in older people.
Experts believe this is due to the impact of pollutants entering the circulatory system, affecting blood flow to the brain.
The authors said: “The epidemiological evidence reviewed fairly consistently reports associations between chronic exposure to air pollution and reduced global cognition and impairment in visuospatial abilities as well as cognitive decline and increased risk of dementia.
“Results are heterogeneous as regards to other cognitive domains such as executive function, attention, memory, language and mild cognitive impairment.
“The identified neuroimaging studies consistently report associations between exposure to air pollution and white matter atrophy.”
It adds that studies are split over which pollutant is most associated with these effects.
The committee said it has made recommendations for further research to help develop the evidence.
Around 850,000 people in the UK suffer with dementia, according to the NHS.
There is also more well-established evidence to show that exposure to air pollution increases the risk of heart disease.
Breathing in emissions can damage the blood vessels by making them narrower and harder – increasing the likelihood of clots, abnormal heart rhythms and heart attacks, according to the British Heart Foundation.
Meanwhile research shows that millions of adults regularly suffer from symptoms associated with poor air quality, due to using cleaning products, living with a smoker – or even owning a pet.
A study of 2,000 adults found 35% have worried how air quality in their home could impact their physical health.
Of those, one in three (32%) have been sneezing or suffered with allergic reactions while at home, while a quarter (26%) have experienced ongoing fatigue.
But nearly half of adults (46%) admitted they had no idea what air pollution even was, while 62% considered it to be something that only occurs outside the home.
Dr Ranj Singh, who is working with Breville, which commissioned the research to launch its 360° air purifier range, said: “Indoor air pollution is a hidden danger even if you don’t have existing breathing problems, so it’s vital we educate ourselves on the causes.
“Unlike outdoor pollution, which is directly related to vehicle emissions and industrial by-products, simple daily tasks and our habits can contribute to indoor air pollution, which can also be dangerous.t”