Greater exposure to air pollution is associated with a decline in cognitive skills in later life, according to researchers at the University of Edinburgh.
The researchers tested the general intelligence of more than 500 people aged approximately 70 years old, using a test they had all completed at the age of 11 years.
The participants then repeated the same test at the ages of 76 and 79.
A record of where each person had lived throughout their life was then used to estimate the level of air pollution they had experienced in their early years.
The team then used statistical models to analyse the relationship between air pollution exposure and their thinking skills in later life, they also considered lifestyle factors, such as socio-economic status and smoking.
The researchers found that exposure to air pollution in childhood had a small but detectable association with worse cognitive change between the age of 11 and 70.
Dr Tom Russ, director of the Alzheimer Scotland Dementia Research Centre at the University of Edinburgh, said: ‘For the first time we have shown the effect that exposure to air pollution very early in life could have on the brain many decades later. This is the first step towards understanding the harmful effects of air pollution on the brain and could help reduce the risk of dementia for future generations.’
In related news, open fires negatively impact cognitive health, particularly in older women, according to a new study published in the journal Environmental Research.
The study, which was conducted by researchers at Lancaster University and Trinity College Dublin involved close to 7,000 open-fire users, aged 50 or over. The researchers estimated each individual’s cognitive using various tests including word recall and verbal fluency.
The research revealed that open fire usage negatively impacts cognitive health, with adverse association largest and strongest among women.
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