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Exposure to air pollution may damage brains

Long-term exposure to fine particle air pollution, even at low levels, may cause subtle structural changes in the brain that could precede cognitive impairment and hidden brain damage, according to research in the journal Stroke.

Between 1995 and 2005, researchers tracked 943 adults from Boston and throughout New England and New York, who were relatively healthy and free of dementia and stroke. They found a 2 microgram per cubic metre of air increase in PM2.5, a range commonly observed across a metropolitan region, was associated with a 0.32 per cent smaller total cerebral brain volume – similar to about one year of brain ageing – and a 46 per cent higher risk of covert brain infarcts, a type of silent stroke. Fine particle air pollution, or PM2.5, comes from burning wood or coal, car exhaust and other sources.

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