Studies of the effect of air pollution on cognitive health are often limited to populations living near cities that have air monitoring stations. Little is known about whether the estimates from such studies can be generalized to the U.S. population, or whether the relationship differs between urban and rural areas. To address these questions, we used a satellite-derived estimate of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) concentration to determine whether PM2.5 was associated with incident cognitive impairment in a geographically diverse, biracial US cohort of men and women (n = 20,150). A 1-year mean baseline PM2.5 concentration was estimated for each participant, and cognitive status at the most recent follow-up was assessed over the telephone using the Six-Item Screener (SIS) in a subsample that was cognitively intact at baseline. Logistic regression was used to determine whether PM2.5 was related to the odds of incident cognitive impairment. A 10 μg/m3 increase in PM2.5 concentration was not reliably associated with an increased odds of incident impairment, after adjusting for temperature, season, incident stroke, and length of follow-up [OR (95% CI): 1.26 (0.97, 1.64)]. The odds ratio was attenuated towards 1 after adding demographic covariates, behavioral factors, and known comorbidities of cognitive impairment. A 10 μg/m3 increase in PM2.5 concentration was slightly associated with incident impairment in urban areas (1.40 [1.06-1.85]), but this relationship was also attenuated after including additional covariates in the model. Evidence is lacking that the effect of PM2.5 on incident cognitive impairment is robust in a heterogeneous US cohort, even in urban areas.
Loop, M. S., Kent, S. T., Al-Hamdan, M. Z., Crosson, W. L., Estes, S. M., Estes, M. G., … McClure, L. A. (2013). Fine Particulate Matter and Incident Cognitive Impairment in the REasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) Cohort. PLoS ONE, 8(9). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0075001