August 30, 2023

Study Links PM2.5 to New Cases of Dementia

A study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggests a link between long-term exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and new cases of dementia. Researchers used data from the nearly 28,000 adults aged 50 and older who participate in the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), which surveys a representative sample of older Americans every two years about their cognition, overall health, health behaviors, and other factors. Results of the NIH study showed that 15 percent of HRS participants developed dementia within a follow-up period that averaged a little more than ten years.

The NIH study researchers used air quality measurements from several sources as well as geographic factors to estimate total PM2.5 at participants’ homes and model emissions from agriculture, road and non-road traffic, coal combustion, open fires, windblown dust, and other sources. “While agriculture and open fires had the strongest air pollution-dementia associations, road traffic, non-road traffic, and coal combustion for energy production and industry were also associated” with new cases of dementia, according to an NIH press release.

The study “Comparison of Particulate Air Pollution from Different Emission Sources and Incident Dementia in the U.S.” was published in JAMA Internal Medicine on August 14.

For more information, read the NIH press release.