Could Dirty Air be Causing Dementia and Alzheimer’s?
The causes of illnesses can often be complex and down to a multitude of factors. For example, they could be hereditary, the result of a mutated gene, environmental, or due to lifestyle choices. For dementia and Alzheimer’s it’s often been seen as a result of genes – both inherited and malfunctioning, of lifestyle choices like fatty diets and poor exercise or mental stimulation, and simply as a result of us humans living longer lives. However, scientists are starting to wonder if environmental elements also play a part in causing higher rates of dementia and Alzheimer’s in urban populations.
The Role of Magnetites
Studies are beginning to show that living in high pollution areas such as big industrial cities expose residents and workers to higher than average levels of magnetites. The mineral Magnetite is the world’s only naturally occurring magnet. Otherwise known as Lodestone, these minerals can be found naturally around the world and are sold by mineral merchants. However, it is a toxic material and also happens to be a byproduct of industrial processes and general urban pollution.
Are They Affecting Our Brains?
Scientists are also discovering that patients with Alzheimer’s have larger than average amounts of magnetite in their brains. Scientists have known for decades that the brain harbors magnetic particles. However, they assumed this was a natural byproduct of the iron used in brain function. Now they are not so certain. Being a toxic substance, magnetite can cause oxidative stress which disrupts natural cellular functions and promotes the creation of destructive free radicals.
While these studies are in their early days and it is important to not assume a connection, scientists are investigating whether magnetite buildup is related to Alzheimer’s or not. It would make sense that if the brain is absorbing magnetites from the atmosphere, they may be causing degeneration of the brain over a long period of time. This would naturally depend on the brain in question and their local environment.
How to Check Your Local Air Quality
Regardless of whether magnetites cause or contribute to dementia and Alzheimer’s or not, it is worth keeping an eye on your local air quality. For seniors especially, many things from industrial pollution and car exhaust fumes to pollen and dust storms can cause health problems; especially those with weakened immune systems such as with asthma and allergies. It is possible to check local weather reports now for air quality levels, but you can also use the AirNow air quality map too. Furthermore, it is possible to use HVAC fans to filter indoor air too.
Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelance writer whose childhood was made awesome by her grandmothers, great-grandmother, great-aunts and -uncles, and their friends.