Long-Term Exposure to Ambient Air Pollution and Cognitive Function Among Hispanic/Latino Adults in San Diego, California

J Alzheimers Dis. 2021;79(4):1489-1496. doi: 10.3233/JAD-200766.


Background: Hispanics/Latinos in the United States are more likely to live in neighborhoods with greater exposure to air pollution and are projected to have the largest increase in dementia among race/ethnic minority groups.

Objective: We examined the associations of air pollution with performance on cognitive function tests in Hispanic/Latino adults.

Methods: We used data from the San Diego site of the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos, an ongoing cohort of Hispanics/Latinos. This analysis focused on individuals ≥45 years of age who completed a neurocognitive battery examining overall mental status, verbal learning, memory, verbal fluency, and executive function (n = 2,089). Air pollution (PM2.5 and O3) before study baseline was assigned to participants' zip code. Logistic and linear regression were used to estimate the associations of air pollution on overall mental status and domain-specific standardized test scores. Models accounted for complex survey design, demographic, and socioeconomic characteristics.

Results: We found that for every 10μg/m3 increase in PM2.5, verbal fluency worsened (β: -0.21 [95%CI: -0.68, 0.25]). For every 10 ppb increase in O3, verbal fluency and executive function worsened (β: -0.19 [95%CI: -0.34, -0.03]; β: -0.01 [95%CI: -0.01, 0.09], respectively). We did not identify any detrimental effect of pollutants on other domains.

Conclusion: Although we found suggestions that air pollution may impact verbal fluency and executive function, we observed no consistent or precise evidence to suggest an adverse impact of air pollution on cognitive level among this cohort of Hispanic/Latino adults.

Keywords: Air pollution; cognitive dysfunction; cohort study; dementia; hispanics; latinos; ozone; particulate matter.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Air Pollution / adverse effects*
  • California
  • Cognition*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Hispanic or Latino
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged