Living in the industrial age has exposed us to health threats, greater than any other time in history. Black carbon, the byproduct of burning fuels, is composed of tiny black particles, which are released into the atmosphere. Black carbon is a major component of soot, and is witnessed more in areas of industrial areas and in the more highly populated areas of our nation.
In recent years, it’s becoming clear that air quality is the strongest determinant of dementia risk. Researchers looking at huge amounts of information, find every time that it’s extremely easy to predict who will develop dementia. Those who are exposed to the poorest air quality are at the highest risk.
One study followed a group of people in a semi-rural area for 10 years. Those living furthest from major roads didn't develop dementia. Those who lived next to the major roads did. The same results have been found in urban, suburban, and rural environments. Not just in the U.S., but equally in Europe, South America, and Asia. Where you live and the environments in which you spend your time either protect you or put you at risk.
The quantity of pollution matters. The more particles there are, the more harmful the pollution. Lastly, the type of particles matter. Naturally-occurring particles are thought to have less harmful effects than many of the particles produced by modern industry and technology. For example, engine exhaust contains many very small particles of dangerous heavy metals as well as free radicals and other harmful substances.
The worst offenders are automobiles as seen by stats of those living close to heavy traffic. With automobiles being the primary source of particulates, diesel engines are the very worst of the bunch. In fact, it's been estimated that pound for pound, long-haul trucks produce many times the harmful pollution of passenger cars. One element found in diesel making it even more dangerous is cadmium. This along with aluminum and mercury are extremely potent neurotoxins.
Living near major roadways puts people at high risk. Cities put people at much higher risk largely because of the concentration of automobile exhaust.
While automobile exhaust is the major cause of air pollution for most people in the U.S., there are other major sources as well. Many industrial facilities are sources of air pollution. Living close to these areas increases your risk. Working in such environments increases your risk even more.
So, how do you protect yourself if you can’t live or work in a safe space? Obviously, relocating to a safe area away from this kind of pollution is one of the most powerful things you could do. The western half of the United States has many times less air pollution than the eastern half on the whole. Major cities are exceptions to that generalization. I remember every time I fly into L.A. and see that thick, unhealthy haze over the city.
If you live near major sources of air pollution and cannot move, there are some smart choices which can help offer additional protection. Think about where you spend a third of your life. Your bedroom needs to be a place where you truly get a chance to restore your health.
Many houseplants have been proven to improve the quality of air. Even NASA uses plants to improve air quality in space facilities. Growing potted plants in your bedroom (and elsewhere in your house) is a smart move. Some plants, which have shown to have the best air purification properties, include: mums, spider plants, dracaena, ficus, and boston fern. All these are commonly available from stores supplying houseplants, and are easy to care for.
Finally, although air pollution may play a major part in dementia, it isn't the only factor. No matter what you do, focus on the basics. Adequate sleep, sunlight, and lots of antioxidant-rich natural foods. For best results consider an annual detoxification protocol through our office.