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Published on January 10th, 2017 | by James Ayre


Those Living Close To High-Traffic Roads Have Higher Rates Of Dementia, Study Reports (… The Obvious)

January 10th, 2017 by  

Those living close to high-traffic roads are considerably more likely to develop dementia than those living further away, new research from Public Health Ontario (PHO) and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) has found.

While these findings shouldn’t surprise anyone at this point, owing to the number of similar research findings in recent years, and also just to common sense, this study seems particularly worth reporting on because of the distances involved.

The study compared rates of dementia amongst those living within fewer than 50 meters of high-traffic roads; those living within 50–100 meters of such roads; those living within 101–200 meters of such roads; and those living more than 300 meters from such roads.

So, the research examined differences in rates of dementia amongst those living near roads in depth, rather than “simply” comparing those living near busy roads with those living much further away (or in rural areas).

Green Car Congress provides an explanation of the study methodology:

“The researchers examined records of more than 6.5 million Ontario residents aged 20–85 to investigate the correlation between living close to major roads and dementia, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis. They assembled two population-based cohorts including all adults aged 20–50 years (about 4.4 million; multiple sclerosis cohort) and all adults aged 55–85 years (about 2.2 million; dementia or Parkinson’s disease cohort) who resided in Ontario, Canada on 1 April 2001.

“Incident diagnoses of dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis were ascertained from provincial health administrative databases with validated algorithms. The researchers identified 243,611 cases of dementia, 31,577 cases of Parkinson’s disease, and 9,247 cases of multiple sclerosis in Ontario between 2001 and 2012. In addition, they mapped individuals’ proximity to major roadways using the postal code of their residence. The findings indicate that living close to major roads increased the risk of developing dementia, but not Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis, two other major neurological disorders.”

The exact findings relating to dementia? The research discovered that those living within 50 meters of high-traffic roadways had a 7% higher chance of developing dementia than those living over 300 meters from busy roadways. As compared to over 300+ meters away, this figure dropped to 4% for those living within 50–100 meters of busy roadways and to 2% for those living within 101–200 meters of busy roadways.

Damning findings. Though, I doubt many of those living in such situations will do anything more than shrug about the findings.

The research paper notes, though, the way that these findings could prove useful:

“This study suggests that improvements in environmental health policies and land use planning aimed at reducing traffic exposure can have considerable potential for prevention of dementia, which would lead to a broad public health implication. This study adds weight to previous observations suggesting that roadway traffic is an important source of environmental stressors that could give rise to neurological disorders and that future investigation targeting the effects of different aspects of traffic such as traffic-related air pollutants and noise on neurological health is merited.”

The new findings are detailed in a paper published in the medical journal The Lancet.

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About the Author

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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