Purified Air: Minimize Risks of Dementia, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Disease

Cleaning your air reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s

In case you weren't sure before, now there is no more doubt about it - air pollution is bad for you. We already knew that breathing polluted air causes or aggravates respiratory diseases such as asthma and lung infections as well as lung cancer. More recently, air pollution was linked to heart disease and obesity and poor grades in school.

But the bad news just keep on coming.

The latest research suggests that urban air pollution could affect the brain and lead to much faster degenerative health outcomes like those seen in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s patients. 
That means millions of people living in expanding cities and urban mega centers may be putting their health at risk. Experts warn about so-called hot-spots of urban pollution. These often include busy roads, highways, industrial areas, and more. The diesel fumes spread by idling school buses pose a significant health risk to children, for example. Idling vehicles in general are a big problem.

air pollution Alzheimers, Parkinsons, Dementia

Urban pollution - what is in the air?

The air pollution that worries experts the most consists of a toxic cocktail of fine and ultra-fine particles, chemicals and fumes.

Coarse particles are not a huge concern, since they are usually caught by the fine hairs in the nose and in the upper lungs. Fine and ultra-fine particles, on the other hand, can embed themselves into the lungs and they can make their way from the nostrils over neural pathways into the brain. Seems hard to believe? It works just like cocaine.

Researchers have found elevated levels of air pollution and brain trauma in patients who lived in highly polluted areas. At the same time, there is a steep increase in cases of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s in North America and worldwide.

Is it all just coincidence? We shall know soon enough as the baby boomer generation is entering the phase of life where degenerative diseases typically emerge. They grew up before the Clean Air Act was passed and were exposed to more air pollution than any other generation before and after them.

It is a scary idea if you think about the high levels of smog and air pollution affecting people living in Chinese and Indian cities right now.

Researchers are notoriously careful about making a direct link between Alzheimer’s and air pollution. Prospective human studies are underway, but it will take decades to get the results. Animal studies seem pretty conclusive, but they are not enough in the world of science. Plus, there is hardly ever just one reason for degenerative disease - it is probably a multiple hit of conditions that will lead to the emergence or acceleration of dementia, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s.

air purifier prevent Alzheimer, Parkinson and Dementia

What is dementia?

Dementia is defined as “a chronic or persistent disorder of the mental processes caused by brain disease or injury and marked by memory disorders, personality changes, and impaired reasoning.”

It is often used as a term when it is pronounced enough to interfere with a person’s daily life.

It is also not clear how much air pollution a person’s brain can withstand before the effects can be seen.

Still, minimizing your exposure to air pollution seems like a good idea, no matter where you live. It just makes sense.

How to minimize risks from air pollution

The best piece of advice we can give is to trust your nose. Experts often say that the nose can be a better spectrometer than any device on the market. If you smell anything chemical or irritating (think diesel or oil) you are in a polluted environment. Also, a person’s sense of smell is the first to go when degenerative diseases emerge, which is why many doctors use smell tests as a diagnostic tool.

  1. Move away from hot-spots. Or if you are thinking of moving, stay away from homes close to highways and busy roads.
  2. Stay indoors on bad days. Air pollution enters a building through open windows, doors, cracks in the building materials and air intakes. Make sure to leave windows and doors closed on bad air days and keep the HVAC system well maintained.
  3. Use a good indoor air purifier. A room air purifier with activated carbon and HEPA can remove fine particles, chemicals and fumes from the ambient air.
  4. Get involved in the community to establish and enforce rules on idling. Many communities already have rules in place that prevent people from idling for long times.
  5. Change or upgrade old diesel engines. Experts say removing old diesel engines from the roads would have a significant impact on air pollution levels.