A study shows proof that Alzheimer’s Disease starts in childhood and could be linked to air pollution.

Photo by Bistrian Iosip on Unsplash

A new study focusing on Mexico City’s residents found evidence to suggest that Alzheimer’s begins in early childhood and could be linked to air pollution. According to Newsweek, researchers examined the autopsies of 203 Mexico City residents between the ages of 11 months and 40 years old. These scientists analyzed the levels of “two abnormal proteins associated with Alzheimer’s—hyperphosphorylated tau and beta-amyloid.” High levels of these proteins were found in 99.5% of the subjects examined, including children less than a year old. These findings lead the researchers to conclude that Alzheimer’s beginnings could start as early as during infancy.

The study also found proof that air pollution exposure could be a leading cause behind the observed heightened protein levels. Newsweek reported that “children exposed to cleaner air performed better in various categories, including cognitive performance” compared to children exposed to higher levels of air pollution. A reason for these cognitive results could be air pollutants’ quick access to the brain. “When individuals breathe in small particles of air pollution, [they]…enter the blood, where they are carried to the brain,” according to Popular Science. “They can pass through the lungs and into the bloodstream, where they can travel up to the brain directly, or cause changes in the body’s immune response that trigger damaging inflammation. There’s also only a thin barrier between the nasal cavity and the brain, and tiny particles of air pollution can pass directly through.”

Individuals’ genetic composition could also make them more susceptible to air pollution’s effects on Alzheimer’s disease. Calderón-Garcidueñas, a researcher involved in the study who collaborates with Universidad del Valle de Mexico, was surprised by the APOE4 gene’s effect on the bodies she examined. Those with this gene who were also exposed to air pollution had accelerated progression of Alzheimer’s disease as well as an increased risk of suicide, compared to those with the same exposure who did not have the gene. “This has to be of interest to everybody, 13 to 20 percent of the USA population carries an APOE4 allele,” said Calderón-Garcidueñas.

According to Calderón-Garcidueñas, “these results stress how important it is to reduce air pollution. [It] has to be prioritized. Pollution is serious [and] chronic, people are exposed from conception to death.”

Studies like these highlight the importance of air pollution reduction. Technologies such as Stealth Power’s idle reduction systems are imperative in reducing harmful emissions and improving the public’s health. Without an active effort to reduce harmful air pollutants, people will continue to get sick, and children as young as infants can suffer because of it.