Long-term exposure to traffic-related particulate matter impairs cognitive function in the elderly

Environ Res. 2009 Nov;109(8):1004-11. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2009.08.003. Epub 2009 Sep 4.


Animal studies have suggested that fine particulate matter (PM) can translocate from the upper respiratory tract to the brain and cause brain inflammation. Brain inflammation is involved in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases. Hypothesizing therefore that long-term exposure to fine PM might contribute to the development of Alzheimer's disease (AD), the objective of this study was to investigate the association between exposure to fine PM and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) which is associated with a high risk of progression to AD. A study group of 399 women aged 68-79 years who lived for more than 20 years at the same residential address has been assessed for long-term exposure to PM and tested for MCI. The exposure assessment comprised background concentration of PM(10) and traffic-related PM indicated by the distance of the residential address to the next busy road. The women were assessed for MCI by a battery of several neuropsychological tests and their odor identification ability. Consistent effects of traffic-related air pollution exposure on test performances including a dose-response relation were found. The associations were adjusted for potential confounders using regression analysis. These results indicate that chronic exposure to traffic-related PM may be involved in the pathogenesis of AD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cognition Disorders / chemically induced*
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Humans
  • Vehicle Emissions / toxicity*


  • Vehicle Emissions