The latest data from the European Environment Agency (EEA) indicate that almost all Europeans suffer from the effects of atmospheric pollution, which causes some 400,000 premature deaths on the continent, where Madrid is the city with the most deaths associated with high levels of nitrogen dioxide. The fine particles (PM2.5, that is, with a diameter less than 2.5 microns) are the most pollutant dangerous for health, with a mainly anthropogenic origin.
Various researches have examined for years how this breathable material can impair cognitive performance. In 2019, the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), a center promoted by ”la Caixa”, pointed out that exposure to fine particles during gestation and the early years Life span is associated with a reduction in fundamental cognitive skills, such as working memory and executive attention.
Increased levels of fine particulate matter up to 28 days before the test was associated with lower scores for global cognitive function among participants, even at levels lower than those generally considered dangerous
But it is not the only stage sensitive to these adverse effects. Air pollution is one of the Environmental risks more common affecting intrauterine development to death, although more studies are required to examine its short-term effects.
Now, a pioneering work published in the journal Nature Aging has verified the association in a short period of time of the PM2.5 with the impaired cognitive function on 954 men elderly whites (mean 70 years). The results indicate that, while such wear is common among older adults, it can be accelerated by environmental factors, such as fine particles.
Thus, the authors, from China and the United States, found that increased levels of this contaminating material up to 28 days before the test was associated with lower scores of global cognitive function among participants, even at levels lower than those. which are generally considered dangerous (approximately ≤10 μg m-3).
“Our study is the first to show that this exposure, even for a few weeks, can impair cognitive performance,” he explains to SINC Xu Gao, first author of the research and professor at Peking University (China).
“In the same way, when PM2.5 were at levels lower than those usually considered dangerous, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), the adverse effect continued to exist. This suggests that there is no safe zone for these particles“, Add.
Anti-inflammatories, possible protector?
Previous studies have also investigated the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), intended to reduce the pain and the inflammation, such as aspirin, as a possible treatment for cognitive impairment and dementia. However, until now its use as a possible intervention to limit the impact of air pollution on cognitive health has not been examined.
The new work suggests that the negative footprint of short-term exposure to air pollution was lower among participants who were prescribed common pain relievers. “These adverse effects decreased in people taking these anti-inflammatory drugs”, Gao emphasizes.
The negative footprint of short-term exposure to air pollution was lower among participants who were prescribed common pain relievers, but more studies are needed to corroborate this.
Of course, the findings only hint that this type of drug may be a “protective potential” for this adverse effect of air pollution. The authors insist on the need for larger studies to validate the relationships between said exposure and cognitive function, as well as the possible modifying effect of NSAIDs.
“It must be validated; these drugs have side effects that we are unable to find out in our cross-sectional analysis. Therefore, we can’t say that people should take them to protect itself specifically from atmospheric pollution ”, concludes the Chinese researcher.
Short-term air pollution, cognitive performance and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug use in the Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study. Nature Aging DOI 10.1038 / s43587-021-00060-4
Rights: Creative Commons.