Short-term exposure to air pollution may impede cognition in older men, according to a new report published in the journal Nature Aging.
Researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health examined the impact that exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and black carbon had on the cognitive performance of 954 older white males from the Greater Boston Area.
The researchers found that elevated average PM2.5 exposure over 28 days was associated with declines in global cognitive function (GCF) and mini-mental state examination (MMSE).
However, they found that men who took nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin, experienced fewer adverse short-term impacts of air pollution exposures on cognitive health.
The link between long-term particulate matter exposure and impaired cognitive performance in the ageing population is already well-established. However, until now little was known about the effects of short-term exposure to air pollution.
Examples of short-term air pollution events that would increase someone’s exposure to air pollution could include forest fires, smog, second-hand cigarette smoke, charcoal grills, and gridlock traffic.
Based on this, the researchers have said that future studies should investigate the specific effects of chemical components of air pollution on cognitive performance, exposure sources in the environment, and whether cognitive impairments due to short-term air pollution exposures are transient or persistent.
Senior author of the study, Andrea Baccarelli, chair of the Department of Environmental Health Sciences, said: ‘Despite regulations on emissions, short-term spikes in air pollution remain frequent and have the potential to impair health, including at levels below that usually considered hazardous.
‘Taking aspirin or other anti-inflammatory drugs appears to mitigate these effects, although policy changes to further restrict air pollution are still warranted.’
In related news, open fires negatively impact cognitive health, particularly in older women, according to a new study published in the journal Environmental Research.
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