In a recent study, scientists discovered that those who live in areas with moderate levels of air pollution are 56 per cent more likely to get Parkinson's disease than those who live in areas with low levels of air pollution.
The research published in Neurology, the official journal of the American Academy of Neurology, aimed to identify national and geographic trends of Parkinson's disease and test for nationally and region-specific links with fine particulate matter.
Brittany Krzyzanowski, PhD, a researcher at Barrow Neurological Institute, also who led the study, said, "Earlier studies have shown fine particulate matter to cause inflammation in the brain, a known mechanism by which Parkinson's disease could develop." Additionally she said, "Using state-of-the-art geospatial analytical techniques, we were, for the first time, able to confirm a strong nationwide association between incident Parkinson's disease and fine particulate matter in the US."
Research found link between air pollution and Parkinson's disease
The study also found that the link between air pollution and Parkinson's disease does not exist in every part of the country and varies in strength.
Along with northern North Dakota, areas of Texas, Kansas, eastern Michigan, and the tip of Florida, the Mississippi-Ohio River Valley has been recognised as a Parkinson's disease hotspot. People in the western half of the United States have a lower risk of having Parkinson's disease than the rest of the country.
Krzyzanowski added, "Regional differences in Parkinson's disease might reflect regional differences in the composition of the particulate matter. Some areas may have particulate matter containing more toxic components compared to other areas."
Mississippi-Ohio River Valley has a pretty dense road network
Although the authors have yet to investigate the many causes of air pollution, Krzyzanowski adds that the Mississippi-Ohio River Valley has a pretty dense road network, and the Rust Belt is also part of this region. "This means that the pollution in these areas may contain more combustion particles from traffic and heavy metals from manufacturing, which have been linked to cell death in the part of the brain involved in Parkinson's disease," added Krzyzanowski.
According to the Medicare dataset
With the Medicare dataset of nearly 22 million people, the population-based geographic analysis found about 90k people with Parkinson's disease. Those diagnosed with Parkinson's disease were geocoded by their neighbourhood of residence, allowing researchers to calculate the prevalence of Parkinson's disease in each region. The average yearly fine particulate matter concentrations in these specific regions were also estimated.
Barrow researchers were able to discover a relationship between a person's earlier exposure to fine particulate matter and their subsequent chance of getting Parkinson's disease after controlling for other risk factors such as age, gender, race, smoking history, and use of medical treatment.
According to Krzyzanowski, "Population-based geographic studies like this have the potential to reveal important insight into the role of environmental toxins in the development and progression of Parkinson's, and these same methods can be applied to explore other neurological health outcomes as well."
Researchers hope the data will aid to enforce stricter policies
Researchers expect that the findings from this novel study will assist in enforcing stronger policies that will reduce air pollution and minimise the risk of Parkinson's disease and other related disorders.
"Despite years of research trying to identify the environmental risk factors for Parkinson's disease, most efforts have focused on pesticide exposure," said Krzyzanowski. "This study suggests that we should also be looking at air pollution as a contributor to the development of Parkinson's disease."
(With ANI inputs)