A new study shows that poor air quality can negatively affect the human brain. The Andrus Gerontology Center of the University of Southern California’s Jennifer Ailshire, PhD, a post doctoral fellow from the National Institute on Aging, is studying the effects of air quality on the brain. Ailshire’s research shows that air pollution is bad for aging brains. Her research has already shown that air pollution is bad for the development of a child’s brain.
Poor air quality has been linked to breathing difficulties for children and heart and lung issues for older adults. Ailshire’s study is the first to determine a link between poor air quality and memory/brain functions of older people. Ailshire’s study involved the evaluation of almost 15,000 men and women aged 50 years and older. The participants were interviewed over the phone during the 2004 Health and Retirement Study. The participants were asked to perform memory tests. They were given lists of words and were asked to repeat them. Their language was also tested during the study. The participants were graded on a scale from 1 to 35.
Ailshire then pulled data from the Environmental Protection Agency concerning the annual average level of fine air particulate matter from 2004. Ailshire’s research showed that some of the small particulates were above the level that could cause health problems on the Environmental Protection Agency’s scale. Ailshire’s further research showed that every 10-point increase in a region’s air pollution resulted in a one-third of a point decrease in a participants score. Ailshire says that such a decrease is comparable to three years of aging. People from large cities are more likely to be exposed to such pollutants.