Study Links Agriculture, Wildfires Air Pollution To Dementia

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News in brief: New research from the University of Michigan associates air pollution, particularly from agriculture and wildfires, with dementia risk. The study tracked over 30,000 adults since 1992 and suggests targeted interventions could reduce dementia cases linked to particulate pollution, especially affecting vulnerable groups like children and older individuals.

New research from the University of Michigan has linked air pollution to cases of dementia. The research, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s Internal Medicine, specifically mentions air pollution from agriculture and wildfires as potent threats to human cognitive health.

The researchers, Boya Zhang and Sara Adar from the institution’s school of Public Health, claim that airborne particles increase the risk of dementia. However, airborne particles from agricultural settings and wildfires are especially toxic for the brain.

Historically, studies have highlighted the link between air pollution and its detrimental effects on the brain.

The environmental epidemiologists, according to a news coverage, say that their findings indicate that lowering levels of particular matter in air pollution, even in a relatively clean country like the United States, may reduce the number of people that develop dementia later in life.

They suggest that particulate matter air pollution from agriculture and wildfires might be more neurotoxic compared with other sources. They, however, admit that more research is needed to confirm these findings, as less prior attention has been given to the study.

The researchers note that the findings are quite timely because of the increasing frequency of wildfire smoke in communities.

Sara Adar, an associate chair of the Department of Epidemiology in the School of Public Health, warns that besides immediate health issues like throat irritation and breathing difficulties, the smog-filled days might also be imperiling the brain’s health.

Wildfire smoke affects many US cities, with some experiencing over a month of smoky conditions annually. These numbers lead to an astounding 25% of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) exposures nationwide and up to 50% in certain western parts.

The pair built their research on data from the Health and Retirement Study, tracking almost 30,000 adults since 1992. Elevated levels of particulate pollution from agriculture and wildfires were found to correlate highly with heightened dementia risks. They also posit that it may be possible to design interventions targeting specific sources to effectively decrease dementia cases.

Furthermore, the study finds that certain demographics are more vulnerable to the health impacts of air pollution. Children, older people, and those with pre-existing health conditions such as asthma, heart disease, and other chronic conditions are part of this susceptible group.

Joseph Akahome
Joseph Akahome
Joseph O Akahome (OJ) is a writer, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Literature from the University of Benin. He is an avid agriculturist, with a bias for poultry and an insatiable appetite for chicken wings. When he is neither reading nor researching, he likes to spend recreational time playing board games, or swimming in serene forested lakes.

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