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Air Pollution Tied to Neurological Disorders in Seniors

TUESDAY, Oct. 27, 2020 -- Exposure to air pollution is associated with an increased risk for neurological disorders in older adults, according to a study published online Oct. 19 in The Lancet Planetary Health.

Liuhua Shi, Sc.D., from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues investigated the effect of long-term fine particulate matter (PM2.5) exposure on development of Parkinson disease or Alzheimer disease and related dementias using data from 63,038,019 fee-for-service Medicare beneficiaries (aged ≥65 years; 2000 to 2016). PM2.5 by ZIP code concentration was calculated based on mean annual predictions.

The researchers identified 1.0 million cases of Parkinson disease and 3.4 million cases of Alzheimer disease and related dementias based on billing codes. For each 5 µg/m³ increase in annual PM2.5 concentrations, there was a higher risk for first hospital admission for Parkinson disease (hazard ratio, 1.13) and for first admission for Alzheimer disease and related dementias (hazard ratio, 1.13). There was a linear relationship for PM2.5 concentrations less than 16 µg/m³, followed by a plateau with increasingly larger confidence bands.

"For the aging American population, improving air quality to reduce PM2.5 concentrations to less than current national standards could yield substantial health benefits by reducing the burden of neurological disorders," the authors write.

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Posted: October 2020

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