It’s well known that air pollution exacerbates respiratory conditions in people with asthma or COPD. New studies suggest that air pollution affects cognitive function as well. Once inhaled, the air particles travel through the circulatory system and damage organs, including the brain. USC researchers looked at 1,400 women between the ages of 71 to 89. Those that lived in areas with high volume of fine particle pollution had a significant change of smaller white matter, which comprises nerve fibers for processing information and communication. Air pollution is a mixture of road dust, car emissions, and soil. It’s hard to know which is the most problematic.
Some of you may say, well…they were old so that doesn’t prove anything. In a study done by the University of Michigan of 20,000 men and women, revealed that those who lived in areas with higher amounts of fine particulate matter performed twice as poorly as those who lived in less polluted areas on cognitive tests.
The EPA in 2012 tightened its air pollution standards and placed air quality monitors near high traffic roadways. Consider these guidelines:
- When the air quality is poor, limit outdoor exercise and activities. Avoid activities near busy roads. Exercise indoors instead.
- Visit the EPA’s website to check your area’s air quality: airnow.gov.
- If you notice that your area is frequently out of the good zone, contact local politicians and the EPA.