Air Pollution and Chronic Diseases

Smog New York 1988 from the World Trade Center (CDC Us Govt.)

Outdoor and indoor air pollution has been linked to respiratory illnesses like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Indoor air pollution is especially to be found where people smoke in non-ventilated places and where people are exposed to toxic pollutants in the work place like asbestos. Fortunately, today smoking is prohibited in many public areas. New research also associates air pollution with chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer and chronic kidney disease as well as neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease.

Air Pollution and Alzheimer’s Disease (AD)

A study by researchers from the University of Montana published March, 2018 in Environmental Research found hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in the brain stems of infants less than a year old, as well as in youths that had committed suicide in heavily air-polluted Mexico City. The team headed by Dr. Lilian Calderon-Garciduenas examined post-mortem samples of brains in people who had died in Mexico City. They discovered that Alzheimer’s disease begins in childhood and believe that in another 20 years many of the children growing up today in cities with very high air pollution will develop early onset Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers also searched for people carrying the APOE4 gene which is known as a genetic risk for both early and late onset Alzheimer’s disease. They found that those carrying the APOE4 gene had a more rapid progression to Alzheimer’s and a 4.92 greater risk for committing suicide than APOE3 carriers.

Mainly, they were gathering evidence that lifetime exposure to dangerously unhealthy levels of fine particulate matter PM2.5 that is often seen as haze over cities can contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. These fine particulate particles can enter the brain from the nose, lungs and digestive tract and reach the brain by the blood stream and can pass over the brain barrier. In fact, the researchers found the classic Alzheimer’s hallmarks of beta amyloid and tau in 99.5% of the post-mortem samples they examined.

They say their research should be a wake-up call to the world to take all the measures necessary to combat air pollution. They believe that millions of people all over the world, including millions of Americans, who are exposed to air pollution are at high risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Air Pollution and Diabetes

A study published June 29, 2018 in the Lancet Planetary Health journal found that air pollution is a significant risk factor for getting diabetes. The researchers surmise based on their results that polluted microscopic airborne particles make their way into the bloodstream from the lungs and:

  • Reduce the production of insulin
  • Promote inflammation
  • Prevent the body from converting blood glucose into energy that the body needs for maintaining good health

Diabetes Epidemic in the United States

Diabetes is referred to as an epidemic in the United States and the numbers are increasing. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • An estimated 30.3 million people of all ages (9.4% of the U.S. population) had diabetes in 2015.
    This total included 30.2 million adults aged 18 years or older (12.2% of all U.S. adults), of which 7.2 million (23.8%) were not aware of or did not report having diabetes.
  • The percentage of adults with diabetes increased with age, reaching a high of 25.2% among those aged 65 years or older.
  • It is projected that by 2025, 1 in every 5 adult Americans will have diabetes.
  • Diabetes was the 7th leading cause of death in the United States in 2015. Diabetes may be underreported as a cause of death. Studies have found that only about 35% to 40% of people with diabetes who died had diabetes listed anywhere on the death certificate.

Most World Inhabitants Live in Dangerously Air Polluted Places

The World Health Organization (WHO) claims that 92% of all the people in this world live with exposure to dangerous amounts of air pollution. Some cities are trying hard to combat air pollution. See our blog post from July 25, 2018 to see how London UK is working to make its air cleaner.

Look for a Rehab or Skilled Nursing Facility that has a Good Clean Air Rating

The Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing is located in Syracuse, New York that has a good rating for clean air from the American Lung Association:

Syracuse-Auburn NY

  • Ranked 122 for high ozone days out of 227 metropolitan areas
  • Tied for 1st for cleanest metropolitan areas in the country for 24-hour particle pollution
  • Ranked 174 for annual particle pollution out of 187 metropolitan areas

Van Duyn also has a state-of-the-art respiratory wellness program.


Since air pollution has been linked to so many bad diseases, it pays to try to live in an area with a good rating from the American Lung Association and to join in the struggle to raise awareness of the dangers of air pollution.

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