Living near a main road linked to dementia

Living near a main road can increase your risk of dementia.

Where you live could have long-term consequences for your cognitive health, with a new study showing a link between people who live near main roads and an increased risk of dementia.

A study published in The Lancet journal this month investigated whether the environmental effect of traffic-dense roads could give rise to dementia, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis. The results found that living close to heavy traffic was associated with a higher incidence of dementia but not Parkinson's disease or multiple sclerosis.

Between 2002 and 2012, researchers tracked 6.6 million people living in Ontario, Canada. This study cohort consisted of people aged 20 to 85 years who were free of the neurological diseases being tested. It turned out that people who lived closer to busy roads were worse off than those residing further away.

Living within 50 metres of a main road led to a seven per cent increase in the risk of dementia, living within 50 to100 metres led to a four per cent higher risk, and residing 101 

– 200 metres from a main road resulted in a two per cent higher risk of the disease. The researchers concluded that there was no increased risk among people living more than 200 metres away.

Lead author of the study, Dr Hong Chen said long-term exposure to road pollutants, specifically carbon dioxide and fine particulate matter, can be linked to higher dementia rates.  There has been previous research linking air pollution and traffic noise to reduced brain matter and lowered cognitive health but Chen’s study is the first to examine the connection between living close to heavy traffic and the onset of neurodegenerative diseases.

“Increasing population growth and urbanisation has placed many people close to heavy traffic, and with widespread exposure to traffic and growing rates of dementia, even a modest effect from near-road exposure could pose a large public health burden.

“More research to understand this link is needed, particularly into the effects of different aspects of traffic, such as air pollutants and noise,” he said.

In England, air pollution is responsible for the deaths of 9500 Londoners per year, with 2016 levels of nitrogen dioxide in some areas of the city breaching EU standards, according to a Kings College study.

In Australia, dementia is on the rise, with three in 10 people over the age of 85 and close to one in 10 over 65 living with dementia.

Do you live close to a main road and feel concerned about pollution? Do the results of this study surprise you and make you think differently about where you live?




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    11th Jan 2017
    For me, I can't live near a main road because of the noise as I sleep very lightly. Extreme tiredness makes me (and others!) quite loopy and forgetful. Then there is the issue of the fumes which are not healthy to breathe. We all remember how children's brains were damaged from the fumes when there was lead tetraethyl added to petrol during most of the 20th century. Perhaps those children as adults who continued to live in a polluted environment now have dementia.
    11th Jan 2017
    Good point, Jennie. Many years ago I did some research on the effect of small quantities of lead in their water on the ability of young mice to navigate mazes. The lead affected mice went through very fast and made loads of mistakes. I don't know what physical effect it had on their brains, but it certainly affected their brain function. Who knows what lasting effects lead, in combinaton with other pollutants, may have had on the brains of children of those days as they aged.
    11th Jan 2017
    Lab rodents are specifically bred to be susseptible to possible changes in physiology and behaviour due to introduction of chemicals they would not otherwise be exposed to, and the quantities administered are usually in ridiculously large amounts. Many years ago fluoride was "proven" to be carcinogenic in lab rats which were administered fluoride on a daily basis equivalent to the amount found in six large tubes of toothpaste for weeks at a time. If you DESIRE certain results they CAN be achieved, but the methodology must be well QUANTIFIED besides being qualified. It is not always a good practice to put a lot of faith into the results of pundits' paid-for performances.
    12th Jan 2017
    Studies have shown large amounts of fluoride lower IQ by quite a bit as well. That is natural fluoride found in local water supplies.

    I've always wondered why the people adding the fluoride to our water have to wear all that protective clothing and masks etc.

    There really should be no childhood dental caries especially in Tasmania where fluoridation is into the fourth generation.
    11th Jan 2017
    Eddie, I can assure you I went into this with no particular expectations and was very surprised by the results. I was a supervised student and unpaid. The lead was diluted to three very low levels, plus, of course, there was a control group with no lead. There were 12 different configurations of the maze and fifty mice all up. Basically, the more lead they had, the more striking the behaviour. They behaved like hyperactive children.
    11th Jan 2017
    Well, jackiet, it sounds like the real deal. Besides making someone (or some mouse) physically ill and nauseous, behavioural changes can take place and there are developmental problems, etc. Whether it is a good thing or not, I was born with a fair amount of scepticism in my blood, which, I think, has done me more good than bad, so have a "questioning mind" when I hear the hypothetical - it is no reflection on you, just my scepticism, and cynicism, surfacing.

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