People who live near busy roads have higher dementia rates

Air pollution causes a range of conditions. Elevated levels or long term exposure are well-documented as affecting the respiratory and inflammatory systems. It can also lead to more serious conditions such as heart disease and cancer. Now BBC News reports: “people who live near major roads have higher rates of dementia”.

Canadian research into dementia and busy roads

A Canadian study found that people living within 50 metres of busy roads were 7% more likely to develop dementia. This is compared to people who live at least 300 metres away.

The results were produced by a major study that tracked all adults in Canada’s most populated province (Ontario) over 11 years.

Researchers also looked to see if a similar pattern was found with two other neurological conditions; Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis. They found no evidence of any link.

This study of 6.8 million people adds to evidence that living close to heavy traffic may have an effect on dementia. A study the NHS discussed last year found evidence that particles caused by air pollution can physically make their way into human brains.

While this type of study cannot prove that traffic or air pollution has caused the increase in dementia cases, a link is certainly in the realms of scientific possibility. Air pollution caused by traffic can lead to exposure to a wide range of damaging toxins, such as nitrogen oxides.

Exactly what policy makers can do to reduce any potential risk of exposure remains a matter of debate.

On an individual basis, there’s not much you can do if you live near a busy road, especially if you’re in a city where most people live near busy roads. However, it does make sense to reduce your exposure to pollution if you can. For example, by walking on the further side of the pavement.  Exercise in parks or back streets rather than along busy roads.

Where did this dementia story come from?

The study was carried out by researchers from a number of Canadian institutions: Public Health Ontario, Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, University of Toronto, Dalhousie University, Oregon State University, Health Canada, and Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics in the US.

Kat Navarro

Contact Care Pendant Alarms, sharing information from NHS Choices