Air pollution is part of a list of environmental factors that could increase the risk of dementia.
That’s the findings of a new study from Edinburgh University, which reveals metals and the lack of vitamin D also increase the risk of the mental illness.
Dementia is associated with genetics and lifestyle factors such as high blood pressure, smoking and diabetes, however there are other factors which remain unknown.
Experts from the Scottish university believe everyday factors such as traffic fumes, occupational exposure to some types of pesticide and excessive levels of minerals found in drinking water may be linked to the illness.
Looking at 60 past studies, scientists found “plenty of evidence” that associates air pollution with dementia however they said the evidence “is not yet sufficient to draw solid conclusions”.
Dementia is a major global public health crisis that is expected to grow as people live longer. Almost 47 million people live with dementia worldwide and it is predicted to increase to more than 131 million by 2050.
Tom Russ from the Alzheimer Scotland Dementia Research Centre at the University of Edinburgh said: “We really need more research to find out whether these factors are actually causing dementia and how and if so, what we can do to prevent this. Our ultimate goal is to prevent or delay the onset of dementia. Environmental risk factors are an important new area to consider here, particularly since we might be able to do something about them.
“The research study substantially improves our knowledge and understanding of environmental factors which may increase the risk of developing dementia and provides a basis for further and more focused research in this area.”