Pollution is not only harmful to our lungs or our cardiovascular health: it would also be a risk factor for certain autoimmune or neurodegenerative diseases.
This is highlighted by a new study by the University of British Columbia, Canada, published in the journal Environmental Health. According to its authors, living near an important road or highway would have a significant impact on the development of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease or that of sclerosis in plates (SEP). At issue: air pollution resulting from the high traffic on these highways.
“For the first time, we have confirmed a link between air pollution and proximity to traffic with a higher risk of dementia, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis at the population level,” explains as well as Weiran Yuchi, lead author of the study.
An increase in risk from 7% to 14%
To reach this conclusion, the researchers analyzed data for 678,000 adults aged 45 to 84 who lived in Greater Vancouver from 1994 to 1998 and during a follow-up period from 1999 to 2003. To estimate their risk to develop a neurological disease, they took into account individual exposure to proximity to the road, air pollution, noise and greenery at the home of each person using data from the postal code. During the follow-up period, the researchers identified 13,170 cases of non-Alzheimer’s dementia, 4,201 cases of Parkinson’s disease, 1,277 cases of Alzheimer’s disease and 658 cases of multiple sclerosis.
They discovered that living less than 50 meters from a main road or less than 150 meters from a highway increased the risk of developing dementia by 14% and Parkinson’s disease by 7%.
However, due to the relatively small number of Alzheimer’s and MS cases in the Greater Vancouver area, researchers have not identified associations between air pollution and the increased risk of these two disorders. . However, they are currently analyzing data across Canada and hope that the larger dataset will provide more information on the effects of air pollution on Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis.
Green spaces with protective effects
However, the researchers realized that the proximity of green spaces could reduce the effects of air pollution on neurological disorders. “The good news is that green spaces seem to have certain protective effects by reducing the risk of developing one or more of these disorders,” says Weiran Yuchi.
This is due to several factors. “For people who are exposed to a higher level of green space, they are more likely to be physically active and may also have more social interactions, suggests Michael Brauer, co-author of the work. There may even be advantages to considering only the visual aspects of the vegetation. ”
According to the authors of the study, it is necessary to make additional urban planning efforts to not only reduce car traffic, but also increase accessibility to green spaces by developing parks and residential neighborhoods.