Even short-term exposure to air pollution may harm your cognition

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

In a new study from Columbia University, researchers found that exposure to air pollution, even over the course of just a few weeks, can impede mental performance.

Examples of events that would increase someone’s exposure to air pollution over the short term could include forest fires, smog, second-hand cigarette smoke, charcoal grills, and gridlock traffic.

However, these adverse effects were lessened in people taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin.

In the study, the team examined the link between exposures to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and black carbon, a component of PM, and cognitive performance in 954 older people.

They also explored whether taking NSAIDs could modify the link.

The team found a higher average PM2.5 exposure over 28 days was linked to declines in cognitive test scores.

Men who took NSAIDs experienced fewer adverse short-term impacts of air pollution exposures on cognitive health than non-users, .

The researchers suggest that NSAIDs, especially aspirin, may moderate neuroinflammation or changes in blood flow to the brain triggered by inhaling pollution.

They say that 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.

The link between long-term PM exposure and impaired cognitive performance in the aging population is well-established.

Reported effects include reduced brain volume, cognitive decrements, and dementia development.

Air pollution has also been associated with poor cognition in children and adults. Until now, however, little was known about the effects of short-term exposure to air pollution.

If you care about cognitive functions, please read studies about having too little or too much water could both harm cognitive functions and findings of common muscle drug may harm cognitive function in people with kidney problems.

For more information about cognitive functions and your health, please see recent studies about this tooth disease linked to cognitive decline, dementia and results showing that these high blood pressure drugs may protect against Parkinson’s, dementia, Huntington’s.

The study is published in Nature Aging. One author of the study is Andrea Baccarelli, MD, Ph.D.

Copyright © 2021 Knowridge Science Report. All rights reserved.