Air pollution in global megacities linked to children's cognitive decline, Alzheimer's and death


Severe air pollution can speed up neurodegeneration when the brain is at the peak of its development — during childhood. Pictured here, a child in Beijing. Credit: Shutterstock

In megacities around the world, including Mexico City, Jakarta, New Delhi, Beijing, Los Angeles, Paris and London, humans are polluting air at a rate that Earth can no longer sustain.

Most human-made air pollution is like dust, as tiny as the diameter of hair (particulate matter) or even smaller (ultrafine particulate matter). The link to respiratory conditions such as pneumonia, bronchitis and asthma is well known. Almost one million children die from pneumonia each year, more than half of which are directly related to air pollution.
Being so small, particulate matter can also travel from our lungs into the blood and circulate into the brain. Once there, it can promote brain inflammation, which…



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