We've known for a long time that air pollution is bad for your body, including your heart. But now, we're learning it might be messing up your brain, too.
Reasearchers on mice have already found a possible link between air pollution and memory problems, but now a similar correlation has been shown in women.
A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine compared known pollution levels with information gathered from the Nurses' Health Study Cognitive Cohort, including data on more than 19,000 women ages 70 to 81 for a 14-year period going back to 1988. Specifically, the research looked into particulate matter, both the really tiny stuff (less than 2.5 microns in diameter, called called fine particulate matter) as well as more general coarse particulate matter (2.5-10 microns), and how it correlated to a number of cognition tests.
For both types of pollution, they saw a marked cognitive decline in the women, and for every 10 μg per cubic meter increase, there was a change equivalent to the effect of aging an extra two years.
Since the data set was exclusively female, it's not yet known if this effects males in the same manner, and it very well might. We also don't know why the link exists, though the researchers suggested it might be linked to the already established cardiovascular risks.
The upshot? Air pollution is something that we as a society can fix — and hopefully keep everyone's brains in slightly better condition for just a little bit longer. But if you're feeling totally paranoid, you can check the PM2.5 values of your neighborhood here.