Aging and exposure to pollutants associated with outdoor origin increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease

Indoor Air Cartoon Journal, May 2019, Volume 2, #57

Alzheimer’s disease is a leading cause of dementia. Memory loss and poor thinking ability, and other impaired cognitive functions are some of the symptoms of dementia. The rise in population of aging people who have Alzheimer’s disease is a major concern not just because of the health and social burden associated with its occurrence, but the economic burden on a country’s health care system, budget, and development. Providing interventions to minimize the contributing factors that make one vulnerable or at risk of having Alzheimer’s disease is essential to reducing the health, social and economic burdens. Exercising regularly, eating healthy, drinking plenty of water, reducing stress, and having a healthy lifestyle are typical advice or strategies for minimizing the occurrence of Alzheimer’s disease. Following this advice could help reduce vulnerability, especially those due to genetics.

However, the potential contribution of air pollutants to increase in vulnerability and risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease is just receiving the attention it deserves. There is emerging evidence associating exposure to air pollutants of outdoor origin, especially those caused by vehicular traffic. Some of the pollutants could also be generated from the indoor environment, but they are mainly from the outdoor environment. Examples of these pollutants are particulate matters, nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO), ozone (O3), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), iron oxide (Magnetite), etc. When the pollutants get to the blood, e.g., through inhalation, they could find their way to the brain. These pollutants could impaired brain cells functions. Association of these pollutants to Alzheimer’s disease occurrence is well documented in the literature. However, the direct cause is still a subject of scientific investigations. Nevertheless, the association suggests exposure to these pollutants increases vulnerability and risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

The weakened condition of brain cells in aging people and the period they spend in the indoor environment further increase vulnerability than other occupants in the indoor environment. Thus, the effort to reduce the exposure of aging people in the indoor environment is essential to minimizing the health, social, and economic burdens. One possible way in the building and construction industry is to design, construct, maintain and operate buildings to reduce outdoor to indoor transport of pollutants. Substantial efforts, regulations or legislation are needed to reduce the generation of the pollutants in the outdoor environment.

56. Alzheimer_56

Do you want to know more about this topic? Read Calderon-Garciduenas et al. (2004), Cheng et al. (2014), and Maher et al. (2016).

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