Air pollution may impact IQ, short-term memory
Wednesday, February 11, 2015, 2:48 PM - A new study out of the University of Montana (UM) suggests air pollution lowers children's IQ and can have a negative impact on short-term memory.
The study also found children with lifetime exposure to pollution concentrations above U.S. standards are at higher risk of developing brain inflammation. Those who carry a gene called the apolipoprotein ε4 allele, which is known to increase the risk of degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, are put at an even greater risk of developing the diseases when they live in a polluted environment.
"Metropolitan Mexico City is an example of extreme urban growth and serious environmental pollution, where 8 million children are involuntarily exposed to harmful concentrations of fine particulate matter in the air every day beginning at conception," the university writes in a statement.
"The study matched two groups of children living in Mexico City by multiple variables, including age, gender, socioeconomic status and education, among others. They then compared children carrying the ε4 allele to children carrying the ε3 allele [which does not increase the risk of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's] and found that those with the ε4 allele had three significant alterations. They had short-term memory shortfalls, an IQ that while within the normal limits measured 10 points less, and changes in key metabolites in the brain that mirror those of people with Alzheimer's disease."
Researchers say the findings suggest ε4 carriers are at a slightly higher risk of developing early Alzheimer's disease if they are continually exposed to air pollution. The discrepancy in IQ is also a cause for concern.
UM professor and lead author on the study Dr. Lilian Calderón-Garcidueñas, says a IQ difference of 10 points could likely "have a negative impact on academic and social issues, including bullying and teen delinquency."
Approximately 200 million people in the U.S. alone reside in areas where air pollution exceeds national safety standards.
Researchers hope to conduct further studies on how to mitigate the risk of exposed children developing Alzheimer's disease later in life.
The complete paper was published January 29 in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.
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