UK Biobank, brain volume, gray matter, white matter, air pollution, PM2.5, PM2.5–10, PM10, nitrogen dioxide, nitrogen oxides


Total brain gray-matter and white-matter volumes can be indicators of overall brain health. Among the factors associated with gray-matter and white-matter volumes is exposure to air pollution. Using data from the UK Biobank, we sought to determine associations between several components of air pollution—PM2.5, PM2.5–10, PM10, nitrogen dioxide, and nitrogen oxides—and total gray-matter and total white-matter volumes in multivariable regression models in a large sample of adults. We found significant inverse associations between PM2.5 concentration and total white-matter volume and between PM2.5, PM2.5–10, PM10, nitrogen dioxide, and nitrogen oxide concentrations and total gray-matter volume in models adjusted for age, sex, body-mass index, self-assessment of overall health, frequency of alcohol use, smoking status, educational attainment, and income. These findings of pollutant-associated decreases in total gray-matter and total white-matter volumes are in the context of mean PM2.5 concentrations near the upper limit of the World Health Organization’s recommendations. Similarly, mean PM10 concentrations were below the recommended upper limit, and nitrogen dioxide concentration was slightly above. Still, there are many areas in the world with much higher concentrations of these pollutants, which could be associated with larger effects. If replicated, these findings suggest that air pollution could be a risk factor for neurodegeneration.

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Brain Sci.




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