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NewsBites March 2011 Issue

Car Exhaust Bad for Your Brain

I s traffc pollution clouding your brain? Harvard researchers report that a doubling of exposure to black carbon—a marker for pollution from automotive exhaust—was associated with a 30% greater chance of scoring badly on a standard test for dementia. The poorer results, plus lower scores on a composite of six other tests of cognitive function, were the equivalent of adding almost two years to subjects’ age. Researchers analyzed data on 680 Boston-area men, average age 71, from the VA Normative Aging Study. The in- vestigators said this was the frst study to link traffc-related air pollution and cognition in older men, and only the second study of such a relationship in older adults. Tiny particles in exhaust, researchers suggested, might lodge in the brain, or could cause cardiovascular damage that in turn affects the brain. Environmental Health Perspectives, online ahead of print; abstract at <dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1002767>

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