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Living Near Major Roads And Their Polluted Air Tied to Parkinson’s, Dementia

People living near major roads or highways may be at greater risk of developing neurological disorders, such as dementia or Parkinson’s disease, but green spaces may help reduce this risk, according to a new Canadian study published in the journal Environmental Health.

A research team from the University of British Columbia (UBC) evaluated data for 678,000 adults (ages 45 to 84) in Metro Vancouver. They found that living less than 50 meters (164 feet) from a major road or less than 150 meters (492 feet) from a highway is linked to a greater risk of developing dementia, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and MS — likely due to increased exposure to air pollution.

The team also discovered that living near green spaces, like parks, has protective effects against developing these neurological disorders.

“For the first time, we have confirmed a link between air pollution and traffic proximity with a higher risk of dementia, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and MS at the population level,” says Weiran Yuchi, the study’s lead author and a PhD candidate in the UBC school of population and public health.

“The good news is that green spaces appear to have some protective effects in reducing the risk of developing one or more of these disorders. More research is needed, but our findings do suggest that urban planning efforts to increase accessibility to green spaces and to reduce motor vehicle traffic would be beneficial for neurological health.”

For the study, the researchers estimated individual exposures to road proximity, air pollution, noise and greenness at each person’s residence using postal code data. During the follow-up period, they 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 MS.

For non-Alzheimer’s dementia and Parkinson’s disease specifically, living near major roads or a highway was associated with 14 percent and 7 percent increased risk of both conditions, respectively.

Due to relatively low numbers of Alzheimer’s and MS cases in Metro Vancouver compared to non-Alzheimer’s dementia and Parkinson’s disease, the researchers did not identify associations between air pollution and increased risk of these two disorders. However, they are now analyzing Canada-wide data and are hopeful the larger dataset will provide more information on the effects of air pollution on Alzheimer’s disease and MS.

When the researchers accounted for green space, they found the effect of air pollution on the neurological disorders was mitigated. The researchers suggest that this protective effect could be 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,” said Michael Brauer, the study’s senior author and professor in the UBC school of population and public health. “There may even be benefits from just the visual aspects of vegetation.”

Brauer added that the study emphasizes the importance for city planners to incorporate greenery and parks when planning and developing residential neighborhoods.

Source: University of British Columbia

Living Near Major Roads And Their Polluted Air Tied to Parkinson’s, Dementia

Traci Pedersen

Traci Pedersen is a professional writer with over a decade of experience. Her work consists of writing for both print and online publishers in a variety of genres including science chapter books, college and career articles, and elementary school curriculum.

APA Reference
Pedersen, T. (2020). Living Near Major Roads And Their Polluted Air Tied to Parkinson’s, Dementia. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 28, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2020/01/26/living-near-major-roads-and-their-polluted-air-tied-to-parkinsons-dementia/153683.html
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 26 Jan 2020 (Originally: 26 Jan 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 26 Jan 2020
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.