Air pollution may damage cognition

Photo credit: Jaybird licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

A recent report in Nature Aging is behind a paywall, so I am using this article about the report in Neuroscience News to discuss it. The study showed that short term exposure to air pollutants in an older male population in Boston impaired cognition as measured by the Global Cognitive Function test and the Mini Mental State Examination. Higher levels of air pollution were associated with worse cognitive performance, as measured by these tests. Aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs appeared to help ameliorate these adverse effects.

Why am I writing about air pollution in a site about noise? Because there is a strong correlation between community noise levels and certain types of air pollution, specifically fine particulate matter from internal combustion engines, especially diesel engines. Aircraft engines also emit particulate matter.

Internal combustion engines and jet engines are noisy. Transportation noise is a major component of community noise exposure. Transportation noise is strongly correlated with adverse health outcomes including hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and increased mortality. Transportation noise also disturbs people, interrupts concentration, impairs learning in schools, and decreases productivity.

A quieter, cleaner community will be a healthier one, too.

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