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December 11, 2019

Air pollution in the scientific news

Proof that air pollution can age the brain

New research published in the Journal of Neurology in November 2019 has found a connection between exposure to air pollution and increased the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

The new study, titled ‘Particulate matter and episodic memory decline mediated by early neuroanatomic biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease’ enrolled women aged 73-87 and over a period of ten years monitored their episodic memory recall and verbal learning tests, which are detectable as an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease.

Subject were assigned disease similarity scores, measured by a series of MRI scans.

Using residential and environmental data on air monitoring the researchers formulated a model to estimate average exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) for each subject.

They found that there was a strong association between higher levels of exposure and declines in immediate recall and learning. Further, they also identified that relatively small increments in exposure increased the risk factor.

The study concluded that there is a strong association between exposure to fine particulate matter and the acceleration of early stage recall and learning, indicating a higher Alzheimer’s risk.

Read the full study here.


Do plants improve indoor air quality?

Like us, you might think that having a little indoor greenery would improve the quality of your indoor air. Many of us believe that plants can passively clean indoor air just by being there, doing what plants do – respiration that results in removal of CO2 and potentially other harmful airborne particles from the atmosphere.

There have been many earlier studies of potted plants to test their abilities to remove airborne volatile organic compounds (VOC) in small, sealed chambers over of a variety of timescales, and with positive findings. But before you rush out to buy some indoor greenery, a new study raises questions about exactly how effective plants might be at cleansing our indoor air.

The new research highlights that many of the studies were carried out in artificial, sterile environments, making it hard to establish a clear relationship between plants and indoor air quality.

The study published in November 2019 was carried out by researchers at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Aptly titled, ‘Potted plants do not improve indoor air quality: a review and analysis of reported VOC removal efficiencies’, the study concluded that the impact of houseplants is insufficient to make a detectable difference to the quality of indoor air, which surprised us.

It’s worth pointing out that plant power reaches beyond air quality, and has been shown to enhance wellbeing and mood, so we’d still advise adding some greenery to your homes and workplaces.

Read the full study here.

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