Study to probe link between air pollution and epilepsy

A new study will examine if long-term exposure to air pollution can increase a person’s risk of developing epilepsy.

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder where people experience seizures and loss of consciousness. The Canadian researchers behind the study say epilepsy sufferers typically have issues with mental and physical health and are at a higher risk of death, so they want to understand what caused a person to develop the disorder in order to provide the best treatment and reduce their risk of additional seizures.

According to the Epilepsy Society, around 87 people are diagnosed with epilepsy in the UK every day and over 500,000 people suffer from it.

For the study, researchers will examine exposure to the air pollutants: nitrogen dioxide (NO2), ozone (O3), fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and sulfur dioxide (SO2) from Jan. 1, 2006 to Dec. 31, 2010 for people taking part in the 2006 long-form Canadian census.

They will also study exposure to city noise from sources such as traffic and construction.

Researchers will then determine potential risk factors by looking at where respondents live and climate and environmental records as well as whether other factors play a role, such as age, sex and neighbourhood characteristics like average rainfall and how close they live to green spaces.

The research will also determine how much health care is used by participants who develop epilepsy within two years of their diagnosis and their risk of death.

Tresah Antaya, an Epidemiology & Biostatistics MSc from Western University in Canada said: ‘There is research showing that air quality affects brain health, however, only a few studies have looked at the relationship between seizures or epilepsy and air quality.

‘Anything that affects the brain is a possible risk factor for epilepsy,’ she added.

‘Some may have higher immunity or other factors in play. So even though you may have a higher risk it’s not going to mean it’s going to happen to you. It is important that we keep identifying causes of epilepsy to improve patient care and prevent new cases from developing.’

‘We know air pollution is bad for the brain and bad for the body, but it’s a matter of proving it and specifically what is it causing and hopefully lead to further research that tries to identify the most optimal treatment for that kind of epilepsy.’

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