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The BBC has reported on a Canadian study published in the Lancet that suggests that people living within fifty meters of a major road have higher rates of dementia.“The researchers, who followed nearly 2m people in Canada over 11 years, say air pollution or noisy traffic could be contributing to the brain’s decline.UK dementia experts said the findings needed probing but were “plausible”.”

The study in the Lancet followed nearly two million people in the Canadian province of Ontario, between 2001 and 2012. There were 243,611 cases of dementia diagnosed during that time, but the risk was greatest in those living closest to major roads.Compared with those living 300m away from a major road the risk was:

  • 7% higher within 50m
  • 4% higher between 50-100m
  • 2% higher between 101-200m

The analysis suggests 7-11% of dementia cases within 50m of a major road could be caused by traffic.”

This study is suggesting that living near heavy traffic can cause a public health impact, and more research is required to examine particular aspects such as air pollutants, noise, nitrogen oxides and rubber tire particulates.

“This is an important paper,” says Prof Martin Rossor, the UK’s National Institute for Health Research director for dementia research.He added: “The effects are small, but with a disorder with a high population prevalence, such effects can have important public health implications.”

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