Scientists have long warned about the dangers air pollution poses to the respiratory system, but air pollution may also pose a threat to the brain, leading to increased risks of Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
“Air pollution is this ubiquitous exposure,” says Trenton Honda, a clinical professor in the department of medical sciences and associate dean in the Bouvé College of Health Sciences. “Everybody’s exposed to it, from the first time you start breathing.”
“About 8 million people a year around the world are killed” from air pollution, he says. “Usually from respiratory or cardiovascular causes.”
But Honda, who studies how environmental factors contribute to disease, notes that recent studies have identified pollutants in unexpected places, like “particulates that are known to be from the combustion of fossil fuels [found] in animal brains and deposited in the placenta.”
Other studies have shown correlations between the environment and an increased incidence in Alzheimer’s and other dementias, Honda says, adding that what he wants to know is “how strong is that environmental component?”