Living near heavy traffic raises risk of dementia, study says

WASHINGTON — A new study shows those who live closest to busy traffic arteries are more than 12 percent more likely to be diagnosed with dementia.

Published in The Lancet, Canadian researchers tracked more than 6 million people for over a decade, to see whether living near major roads might adversely affect cognition.

Scientists found those who lived within 50 meters (164 feet) of a busy road had the highest risk — 12 percent of developing dementia, with the increased risk dissolving more than 200 meters away.

“Increasing population growth and urbanization 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,” Hong Chen, the scientist who led the work, told The Guardian.

Researchers stopped short of saying exposure to exhaust fumes was the cause of neurodegeneration.

Researchers took into account wealth, education and various other measures of health and social status in their calculations, while acknowledging other factors may have affected their findings.

Professor John Hardy, a neuroscientist, who is not involved with the study, told The Guardian people shouldn’t be unduly alarmed by the findings.

“There are several reasons why one might not want to live near a major road, but this study is not an additional one,” Hardy said.

Earlier studies have found air pollution and traffic noise could affect brain matter and cognition, in addition to respiratory problems.

The scientists did not find a link between living near traffic and Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis.

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