Air-Pollution & Your Brain Health, UK Researchers Fight The Good Fight:
So we all try to stay as healthy as possible in our habits.
These often include forays into the follies of nutrition & exercise.
And white Saturated Fat is an easy evil to avoid because it’s right on food labels,
Other threats are much harder to stay away from.
And it turns out some strange but important work is being done by our cousins in the UK and also China on the impact of air-quality on your brain,
You certainly won’t believe the results; or look at a city-bus the same way ever again…
The History Of Consumer Protection:
Governments & regulators also do their bit to keep us and our environment clean & safe, too.
Whether it’s restrictions & alerts on:
Food-Safety, Ingredient-Quality & Purity, Materials-Safety, Workplace-Safety, Fancy Reflective-Vests & Hardhats, and even Water-Treatment & Filtration of all types.
But one of the few things people not living in the 1970s think about is: Air Pollution.
The Pacific Garbage Patch, full of your plastic shopping-bags, sure.
But Air? No.
And Yes, those teams in the UK, US & China are finding-out it does hurt not just your Lungs, but your Heart, Circulatory-System and even your Brain; badly.
Read on to see how…
Location, Location, Location!:
And in big cities, or near major roadways, taking their work for-granted on the invisible-yet-essential could be a big problem.
So first, we found-out about smog somewhere around the 1970s.
Then, The Olympics taught us how bad the air in Beijing, China is.
Still later-on we found out air-pollution causes all kinds of Heart-Disease!
And now the missing-link, but first A Clue:
What is one thing that a lot of brain-booster pills have in-common?
And guess what? What’s bad for the Heart, is also bad for… The Brain.
How bad? -Like Alzheimer’s bad.
So First? London Traffic Coughs-Up A Lung:
In a study of about 130,000 Londoners,
Health-outcomes were tracked over the course of 7 years and tested against exposure to 3 air-pollutants:
1) Oxides of Nitrogen (NOx)
2) Super-Fine Particulate Matter (PM2.5)
And what the researchers found was that people in the Highest 20%-bracket of NOx exposure,
Had a 40% Increased-Risk of developing Alhzeimer’s Disease, versus those in the Lowest 20%-bracket.
As a stealthy-footnote, they cite that this association was Also true for superfine-particulate-matter.
But as a caveat, the St. George’s team let by Iain Carey notes that these were:
1) Not explainable by association with any other factors like diet, exercise, and even smoking
2) Controlled-for other confounding factors that might interfere
3) Potentially-restricted only to Londoners
4) Handicapped by the fact this is an observational-study only and cannot establish Causation
Baby You Can Drive My Car:
Ok, now I’ll take the leap that the UK studyers wouldn’t.
What do large cities, -Especially in Europe & The UK- have in-common?
1) Lots of Traffic
1a) Especially Slow-Moving, Stop-&-Go, and even Jams
2a) Specifically: City-Buses.
And what do all of the above run on, specifically in the UK and Europe, even more than the US?
So what do Diesel Engines do much more than gas/petrol engines?
Even the clean ones from manufacturers that don’t cheat on their Emissions tests ala Dieselgate.
The Ghost Of 1970s LA Returns, Wrecks Your Brain Health w/ Air-Pollution:
Diesel engines put-out Oxides of Nitrogen (NOx) at a minimum of 1150% more than gas engines.
They also put out A LOT more particulate-emissions.
Just look up “Rolling Coal” if you don’t believe me.
So just think of all the Diesel-powered city buses, heavy trucks, and tons of allegedly “fuel-saving” cars powered by diesel,
Siting in London traffic, paying the congestion-charge, spitting-out tons of NOx and fine-particulates that may just hang in the air like 1970s depictions of LA.
And the real-kicker, as we’ll see later, is that in a big-city there might be no escape from it.
-That is, until Tesla comes-in and electrifies everything, starting with heavy-trucks.
But wait, it gets worse.
A Few Stats To Highlight The UK Study Numbers:
40% of all the cars driven in the UK are diesels.
50% of all new cars purchased in the UK since 2013 have been diesels.
97% of all UK trucks, from light vans on up were diesel-powered.
And the problem accelerates, because the UK government has placed increased emissions-based taxes on new diesel car purchases,
So people keep the old ones that are much worse polluters than the brand-new ones.
And since diesels are generally very-reliable and can do 300,000 miles easily,
Given the UK average miles-driven that’s much less than the US because of land-area,
That 7900 miles/year equates to nearly 2x the life of a car in the US at a possible 40 years,
Instead of the US average of 13,474 which means a 300k Mi diesel here would last 22 years.
The Canary In The Salt Mine, China:
A similar study was conducted on 25,000 subjects in over 160 municipalities in China by a team from Yale.
They tested for:
2) Sulfur-Oxides (SOx)
3) Semi-Fine Particles 4x the size of the London study (PM10)
And what they found was even-starker.
Even while still working, but not diagnosed in an old-age home or convalescent care-center,
People who worked outdoors anywhere and were routinely-exposed to these air-pollutants,
Were shown to have a cognitive-impact equivalent to reducing a person’s education level by 1 full year of school.
Another way of expressing this is that their verbal test-scores declined by 13% and their math scores by 8%.
The most pronounced-effect was on Men who worked outdoor jobs.
And it’s particularly-telling that the verbal-score was affected the most, because being at a loss for specific vocabulary-words is one of the early hallmarks of dementia.
The Third-World Is An Unfortunate-Indicator:
And as-if the London results weren’t bad enough,
We already know that air-pollution is also associated with Heart-Disease, Stroke, and Lung-Cancer
Worse than that is however bad it is for Diesel-smoking Londoners,
97 percent of developing-nation cities over 100,000 citizens fail the UN requirements for air-pollution.
This also includes trying to change emissions of all types, including cars and power-generation so that maximum particle-size that ever gets into the air is 20x the ones found in the London study and 5x the ones found in the China study.
Finally, Back In The US of A:
Researchers at USC have also confirmed previous Canadian work that shows living within about 300 feet of a major roadway can be a risk.
In a study on mice, they showed that all kinds of brain-damage start happening as a result of exposure to the exact pollutants coming from cars & trucks.
1) Increased brain inflammation
2) Increased problems with the cells that clean the brain
3) Disrupted nerve-connections at the growth-end of brain-cells
4) Rise of Alzheimer’s inflammation-chemicals in brains called TNF
5) Disruption of the Insulation on the outside of nerve-cells in the brain
How Does This Happen?
The main thesis from researchers at Rochester,
Is that the inhaled-particles are so small (the PM2.5s) at only 10% the diameter of a human-hair, they may actually travel down the olfactory nerves,
Make it into the part of brain those nerves connect-to in the back,
And then start the inflammation-cascade from there.
What Can We Do About It:?
It would appear from the Canadian results that one of the best ways to beat this is to not be where the pollution and the super-fine particles are.
You would need to live at least 300 feet away from a highway or industrial-center that had large-amounts of traffic from what is most-likely Diesel-burning trucks.
Note, that though diesels are the dirtiest engines, gas engines will probably have their share of ills, too.
Another way to avoid this is probably to stay indoors within a certain window of peak rush-hour.
Just in-case the Oreck people are right about indoor air-pollution, you probably want to invest in an indoor air-filter for each floor of your house.
What If You Take Mass-Transit To Work Every Day?:
Now if you work in a big city…
Maybe those people with face-masks on in China don’t look so crazy after-all.
-Especially if you’re right in the middle of your city near a Bus Depot.
But as eco-mentalist as it sounds one of the things we’ll have to do,
Even if it’s for Health before Climate-Change,
Is reduce particulate-producing engines as quickly as we can.
So that Tesla tractor-trailer and city-bus really can’t go into production soon enough.
Because remember, having a little brain-power and good memory in the first-place is a nice luxury to have,
But protecting whatever brain health you do have against things like dementia from air-pollution is even better and wiser.
Photo Credits: “Apocalypse Disaster”, by code404
• Sources: SGUL UK | UN – Air Pollution Intelligence | USC Air Pollution Dementia | U Toronto Pollution of Trucks Near Roads
• More Coverage: Heart – Air Pollution and Heart Disease, Stroke | CARB – Diesel Exhaust & Health
• Source Studies:
• BMJ.Epidemiology – Are noise and air pollution related to the incidence of dementia? A cohort study in London, England
• PNAS – The impact of exposure to air pollution on cognitive performance
• TranslationalPsych. – Particulate air pollutants, APOE alleles and their contributions to cognitive impairment in older women and to amyloidogenesis in experimental models
• Lancet – Living near major roads and the incidence of dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis: a population-based cohort study
• Environ.Sci.Technol. – Near-Road Air Pollutant Measurements: Accounting for Inter-Site Variability Using Emission Factors