Could sitting in traffic give you Alzheimer’s?

No one likes being stuck in traffic. Congestion means missed appointments, late deliveries and road rage. But what many drivers don’t appreciate is that it’s also a serious health risk, exposing them to levels of air pollution that some researchers have linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

Drivers stuck in traffic in with vehicles in front on them are exposed to 29 times more pollutant particles than cars travelling freely along the road.

These ultra-fine particles form a toxic haze of sulfate, nitrate, ammonium, black carbon and heavy metal. And a growing body of evidence suggests they can enter the human brain and increase the risk of dementia.

One study from the University of Toronto found that people who lived 50 metres from a major road were 12 percent more likely to develop dementia than those living just 150 metres away. A US study of 19,000 retired nurses found that the more air pollution they were exposed to at home, the worse they did in tests of mental agility. MRI scans have uncovered evidence of brain shrinkage among people living close to busy roads.

Scientists say more research needs to be done to prove the link conclusively. But they warn that the evidence should be ringing alarm bells. For people who have to drive for a living these findings make for worrying reading. It’s why it’s essential to get London’s traffic moving.

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