Associations between air pollution and biomarkers of Alzheimer's disease in cognitively unimpaired individuals

Environ Int. 2021 Dec;157:106864. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2021.106864. Epub 2021 Sep 16.


Background: Air quality contributes to incidence of Alzheimer's disease (AD) although the underlying neurobiological mechanisms are unclear. This study was aimed to examine the association between air pollution and concentrations of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) AD biomarkers and amyloid-β (Aβ) deposition. Participants and methods The sample included 156 cognitively unimpaired adults aged 57 years (61 at biomarkers assessment) with increased risk of AD from the ALFA + Study. We examined CSF levels of Aβ42, Aβ40, p-Tau, t-Tau, neurofilament light (NfL) and cerebral amyloid load (Centiloid). A Land Use Regression model from 2009 was used to estimate residential exposure to air pollutants including nitrogen dioxide (NO2,) and particulate matter (PM2.5, PM2.5 abs, PM10). This model was considered a surrogate of long-term exposure until time of data collection in 2013-2014. Participants have resided in the same residence for at least the previous 3 years. Multiple linear regression models were used to estimate associations between air pollutants and biomarkers. The effect modification by CSF Aβ status and APOE-ε4 carriership was also assessed.

Results: A consistent pattern of results indicated that greater exposure to NO2 and PM2.5 absorbance was associated with higher levels of brain Aβ deposition, while greater exposure to PM10 and PM2.5was associated with higher levels of CSF NfL. Most associations were driven by individuals that were Aβ-positive. Although APOE-ε4 status did not significantly modify these associations, the effect of air pollutants exposure on CSF NfL levels was stronger in APOE-ε4 carriers.

Conclusion: In a population of cognitively unimpaired adults with increased risk of AD, long-term exposure to air pollution was associated with higher levels in biomarkers of AD pathology. While further research is granted to elucidate the mechanisms involved in such associations, our results reinforce the role of air pollution as an environmental risk factor for AD.

Keywords: AD biomarkers; APOE; Air pollution; Amyloid-β; Neurodegeneration; Nitrogen dioxide; Particulate matter.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Air Pollution* / adverse effects
  • Alzheimer Disease*
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Biomarkers
  • Humans
  • tau Proteins


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Biomarkers
  • tau Proteins