Thursday 22 February 2018

Living near a busy road raises risk of Alzheimer's

People living within 50 metres of heavy traffic had a 7pc higher risk of developing dementia
People living within 50 metres of heavy traffic had a 7pc higher risk of developing dementia

John von Radowitz, London

Living close to a busy road increases the risk of Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia by up to 12pc, a major study has found.

Scientists who tracked the progress of more than six million Canadian adults for 11 years found a clear trend with dementia incidence rising the nearer people lived to main roads.

Compared with those whose homes were more than 300 metres away, people living within 50 metres of heavy traffic had a 7pc higher risk of developing dementia.

The increase in risk fell to 4pc for residents living 50 to 100 metres from a busy road, and 2pc at 101 to 200 metres. At more than 200 metres there was no evidence of a link with the condition.


Being a resident of a major city or never moving from an urban location close to a busy road appeared to boost the effect.

For people in both these categories, living less than 50 metres from a main road was associated with a 12pc increase in dementia risk.

Although the differences are small, the findings add to recent evidence that long-term exposure to air pollution and traffic noise may contribute to brain shrinkage and mental impairment.

Other results from the study suggested a connection between dementia and exposure to two common traffic pollutants, nitrogen dioxide and fine particles of sooty material generated by diesel engines.

Lead scientist Dr Hong Chen, from Public Health Ontario, said: "Our findings show the closer you live to roads with heavy day-to-day traffic, the greater the risk of developing dementia. With our widespread exposure to traffic and the greater tendency for people to live in cities these days, this has serious public health implications.

"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."

The study, published in 'The Lancet' medical journal, monitored the progress of every adult aged between 20 and 85 living in Ontario from 2001 to 2012. About 6.6 million people took part in the research.

Irish Independent

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