Just a small amount of air pollution could raise the risk of developing a neurodegenerative disorder, such as Parkinson’s disease, by 13 per cent, a major study has revealed.
The research, published by Harvard University, adds to the growing body of evidence highlighting the negative impact dirty air can have on the health of our brains.
According to the paper, scientists looked at the medical records of some 63,038,019 patients for signs of brain disease, such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. They were also able to use the address of patients to identify the level of air pollution each participant was exposed to.
It was found that each five microgram per cubic metre rise in ‘particulate’ air pollution increased the risk of being admitted to hospital for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease by 13 per cent.
For context, the average air pollution in the UK is around 10 micrograms per cubic metre – known as PM2.5.
Commenting on the research, author Xiao Wu, a doctoral student at Harvard University, said: “Our study indicates that long-term PM2.5 exposures are linked to an increased risk of neurological health deterioration, even at concentrations well below the current national standards.”
The study comes after separate research published earlier this year found that approximately 15 million people in the UK live in dangerously polluted areas. It concluded that as many as 36,000 respiratory, heart and circulatory disease deaths are attributable to air pollution each year.