Particulate Air Pollution Vs. Dementia Risk. Watch Out For Downtown!:
As some of the more recent storms might suggest, climate change may be a big problem we’ll have to deal with into the future.
And the decarbonization of the transportation sector might really be a help with that.
To that end, some health problems might actually benefit from retro-thinking.
Specifically, 1970s-era smog concerns thinking.
Because a team of UW researchers is finding that not only might a part of the COVID pandemic pay dividends for individuals, but where you live and work may determine whether or not you get one or more currently “unsolvable” health problems…
The Short Answer:
- Climate change is a problem.
- But it may drive health benefits for all of us through electrification of cars & trucks.
- We & our DNA are not always the source of our problems.
- Not all air-pollution problems were solved in the 1970s.
- Big cities & large roadways still have them, they just don’t come from leaded gas and the same type of smog.
- The big problem is fine particulate air-pollution of the PM2.5 grade.
- Even if you don’t live next to a highway, UW’s team shows that downtown areas can still be full of that type.
- This is true even for places like Seattle, even though previous work shows London is worse.
- The results show that if you spend a decade in a city’s downtown area, your risk of Dementia is likely to increase by at least 16%.
- It is no longer just a respiratory or heart-disease risk as was thought before.
- This amount of pollution can be as small as 1 microgram per cubic meter of air.
- That also is the difference between living downtown or in a leafy suburb at least 300 feet away from heavy diesel traffic.
- The researchers arrived at their stats by reverse-engineering the exposure of several study participants across 40 years.
- Diesel fleets tend to be old and pollute much more than gas-powered cars.
- You can do some things with nutrition, supplementation, & air filters to protect yourself until all heavy-transportation is electrified.
- One of these fixes is wearing a special type of mask, similar to the one you’d wear during the COVID pandemic.
- No matter how much Benzedrine you give him, Elon Musk may actually have a maximum speed limit.
Read on to find out the details…
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So when we think of health problems, we tend to center the ideas on ourselves.
As if everything is genetic or behavioral.
Now even though there are plenty of choices & actions that lead up to the problems that result from being overweight or obese,
Not every health-problem is the result of choices or random genetic dice.
And if one era was full of that type of investigation about things like the environment, it was the 1970s.
So even though Dr. Neal Barnard would tell you that getting saturated fat out of your diet, and getting a really healthy dose of anthocyanins from things like blueberries will really help your brain.
Environmental variables might factor in for you as well.
And that’s where the recent work by the University of Washington comes in.
Because even though the current cultural shorthand might suggest all the clean-air problems were solved back in the ACHTUNG-Smog! 1970s, they weren’t.
This isn’t even just about greenhouse gases.
In work that is similar to that done by St. George’s University in the UK, UW shows we still have air quality problems in big cities.
Now that we’ve gotten lead out of gasoline a few decades ago, the problem we now face comes from gases & fine-particulates emitted by internal-combustion engines.
This is much more serious in places like London from the previous work, because the UK & EU are absolutely crazy for Diesels!
Now you’d normally think, “Well wait, I don’t live by a highway! Why should I care?”.
According to the UW team, if you are anywhere near a downtown area, living, working, snacking, lounging alluringly -whatever, especially by a main thoroughfare; you should care.
Because in examining data collected in two groups, one from the late 1970s and another starting in 1994,
It’s all about Location! Location! Location!
Their tests in downtown Seattle show from more than 4,000 subjects across several decades,
That if you’re exposed to the PM2.5 type of fine-particulate exhaust across at-least 10 years,
Your chance of getting dementia goes up by 16%.
That level of exposure only has to go up by 1 microgram (1/1000 of a milligram) per cubic meter of air versus a neighborhood right next to a park with near-zero city bus traffic.
And that is independent of genetics, sleep, diet, drinking, or any other factor like obesity.
The way they were able to calculate that risk is the Dementia-equivalent of contact-tracing.
(so again, Big Data to the rescue!)
More than 4,000 people participated in programs where their addresses were tracked.
Based on that, researchers could guesstimate the total amount of particulate emissions the person was exposed to over time.
And once a subject did come down with dementia they could tell what the percentage effect was given the population by extrapolating.
What’s surprising is not just the ability of a downtown area to seemingly hold-in a certain amount of air pollution,
Like a 1970s smog,
But these tests were done on Seattle!
What happens when you test a city with tons of stop & go traffic and lots of diesel-powered city buses like New York or LA?
You probably get much worse results, especially for New York.
Because USC’s guidelines in previous work on how far away you have to get to reduce your exposure are impossible in places like NYC.
And diesel engines can do 300,000 miles without even blinking, so any municipal fleet of vehicles is likely to be old, out of tune, and very dirty in terms of pollution.
Let’s also be clear on the numbers, so that we and the UW researchers don’t sound like Chicken Littles.
For the NOx gases that are also associated with different cognitive difficulties,
Diesels pollute 1150% more than an average gasoline car.
For the PM2.5 Fine Particulate pollutants, diesel engines put out more than 100x what the average gasoline engine does.
And as we said before, these are probably conservative estimates because diesels last so long and are part of heavy-industry fleets that must “pay back” the cost of their initial investment through revenue and not just depreciation.
Before you say it, almost none of the allegedly “clean diesels” will be maintained enough to actually be clean,
Especially the ones that work in stop & go city traffic.
So what can we do, you know, other than giving Elon Musk more Benzedrine?
I don’t know if any of us can influence city governments to use greener transport and possibly electrify their bus fleet,
Much less getting a trucking company like JB Hunt to do it.
But at-least the political winds are generally blowing in that direction.
And strangely-enough, there is also another clue about short-term solutions in nutrition work.
Because USC found earlier when they exposed mice to these same pollutants, this is what happened to their brains:
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
And wouldn’t you know it, coincidentally enough by researchers working for Columbia,
They found that there is a chance if you get them in your diet, either through food or supplements, they may protect against some of the harmful effects of PM2.5 air pollution!
And lastly, as we hinted at the beginning of the article,
In addition to spending as much time as you can at least 300 feet away from major roadways as USC & Candian studies recommend,
You can do something the pandemic has normalized: Wear a mask.
Now these may not be perfect, and they won’t protect you against the NOx gases that are also associated with Bipolar, Depression & Personality-Disorders,
But a PM2.5 mask for your face could have a good shot at keeping a lot of those fine particles out of your brain.
You may not have to go as far as a Miller LPR100 with the high-efficiency 819 filters,
You can even do the same for your car if you commute by getting an activated-charcoal HEPA cabin air filter.
So unfortunately, not all of us will be able to effectively avoid downtown areas in big cities for our whole lives,
But doing a little bit more for yourself might stave off dementia from particulate air pollution if you must be there before heavy-transportation is electrified.
• Source: U.W
• More Coverage: UW Traffic & Dementia, 2019 | Lancet-Dementia Prevention Report & Life-Path Graphic
• Source Study: EHP – Fine Particulate Matter and Dementia Incidence in the Adult Changes in Thought Study