Research finds link between Mexico City air pollution and early signs of Alzheimer's in children

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Mexico City's Smog-Capture Building


By Mark Leberfinger for AccuWeather

Children in Mexico City have developed some of the early markers for Alzheimer's in the brain's chemistry and structure due to the city's air pollution, American and Mexican researchers said.

Pollution has contributed to changes in the hippocampus where learning and memory processing take place, said Dr. Lilian Calderón-Garcidueñas of the University of Montana, Missoula.

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Mexico City has had a long-standing air pollution issue. Millions of children are involuntarily exposed to harmful concentrations of fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) every day since conception, Calderón-Garcidueñas said.

See photos of the pollution that plagues Mexico City:

21 PHOTOS
Pollution in Mexico City
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Research finds link between Mexico City air pollution and early signs of Alzheimer's in children
Picture of buildings of the concrete jungle of Mexico City seen through smog on February 14, 2014 from the Latin American Tower.(Photo credit: RONALDO SCHEMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
A general view of the smog covering the Mexico City skyline on March 30, 2014. AFP PHOTO/ Yuri CORTEZ (Photo credit should read YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
A general view of the smog covering the Mexico City skyline on March 30, 2014. AFP PHOTO/ Yuri CORTEZ (Photo credit should read YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
View of heavy traffic in Reforma avenue, one of the main streets of Mexico City, on February 12, 2008. The mayor's office of the Mexican capital is trying to reduce the effects of the high pollution caused by cars by extending the current plan -which bans 20% of the cars (depending on the numberplate for each day) to drive in labour days- to Saturdays. AFP PHOTO/Omar Torres (Photo credit should read OMAR TORRES/AFP/Getty Images)
Mexico City. (Photo By BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images)
Pollution blankets Mexico city against a backdrop of the Ixtcihuatl volcano 18 January 2002. In Mexico City more than 60 000 people died each year from complications related to the pollution, according to environmentalist groups. (Photo credit should read JORGE UZON/AFP/Getty Images)
A view looking south from Mexico City's main avenue Paseo de la Reforma, Tuesday Jan. 2, 1996 shows the volcanos south of the city: Iztacihuatl, left, which means sleeping woman in the indigenous Nauhatl language; and Popocatepetl, which means weeping warrior. A rare combination of low holiday traffic and winter snowstorms made the volcanos visible today and over the New Year weekend. Most of the year the mountains are not visible because of the city's high smog levels.(AP Photo/Joe Cavaretta)
Mexico City's World Trade Center building appears as a silhouette Saturday, Dec. 2, 1995 looking south from the Paseo de La Reforma in downtown. The city has suffered through several days of unusually bad air qualtiy as nighttime temperatures plunge near freezing causing thermal inversions during the day when the sun warms the smog and it gets trapped in the Valley of Mexico, which is surrounded by mountains. A report released by the environmental activist gruop Greenpeace says that air quality levels in Mexico City could be up to three time worse than the government reports. (AP Photo/Joe Cavaretta)
The view looking west down Paseo de la Reforma, Mexico City's main avenue, is reduced to only a few blocks as a choking blanket of smog covered the city Friday, Nov. 17, 1995. The air pollution combined with fog was so thick Friday that the Benito Juarez International Airport had to be closed for several hours due restricted visibility. The monument in the foreground is the Angel of Independence. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Construction workers labor on a high-rise in downtown Mexico City as a haze shrouds other buildings on Monday January 22, 1996. Due to high pollution levels, city authorities have imposed an environmental emergency plan since January 19, making this the fourth day of emergency environmental measures. More than half of all Mexico City car owners are not allowed to drive their cars as a way to bring air pollution levels down.(AP Photo/Claudio Cruz)
MEXICO - JUNE 06: Aerial view of the city's streets and buildings. Mexico City, Federal District, Mexico. (Photo by Stephanie Maze/National Geographic/Getty Images)
MEXICO - MARCH 01: Sunlight tries to break through the smog on a busy street, Mexico City, Mexico (Photo by Stephanie Maze/National Geographic/Getty Images)
General view early morning 7 February, 2007 of Mexico City already covered by a layer of smog. Mexico City is considered as one of the most polluted cities in the world. AFP PHOTO/Ronaldo SCHEMITD (Photo credit should read Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images)
Mexico City, MEXICO: Demonstrators from San Luis Potosi stand protest in front of the Canadian embassy 28 February 2007 in Mexico City against Canadian company Metallica Resources Inc. The company extracts gold and silver from the San Pedro mountain in San Luis Potosi, 400 km from Mexico City, polluting the water in the region, protesters said. AFP PHOTO/Luis ACOSTA (Photo credit should read LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images)
Mexico City, Mexico-October 29,2003- One of the aguas negras in Mexico City, a sewage ditch. Juan Manuel Nava Gonzalez, age 20 (left) Gilberto Cano Medina, age 28 (right)(DENVER POST PHOTO BY LYN ALWEIS) (Photo By Lyn Alweis/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
Haze obscures the Mexico City skyline Thursday Oct. 23, 1997. The amount of pollution in Mexico City has led authorities to declare strict measures in traffic control and to have taken about 600,000 vehicles out of circulation. (AP Photo/ Jose Luis Magana)
Buildings stand in the Polanco neighborhood as seen in this aerial photograph taken from a helicopter in the Condor Group, a fleet of helicopters operated by the Federal District Secretariat of Public Security, in Mexico City, Mexico, on Friday, Feb. 15, 2013. The group provides air support to the population of Mexico City in emergencies, as well as surveillance and traffic monitoring. Photographer: Susana Gonzalez/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Traffic moves down a street in this aerial photo taken during a Red Wings Co. TuriSky helicopter tour of Mexico City, Mexico, on Friday, May 22, 2015. Red Wings Co. is a boutique airline offering executive jet flights and helicopter tours of Mexico City through its TuriSky service, a joint alliance with the ADO Group. Photographer: Susana Gonzalez/Bloomberg via Getty Images
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - AUGUST 13: Heavy traffic fills streets at the end of a workday August 13, 2010 in Mexico City, Mexico. Traffic jams are a big problem in the city. (Photo by Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images)
MEXICO CITY - AUGUST 30: Workers from the electrical sector block traffic during a protest against the privatization of the electrical industry 30 August 2002 Mexico City. An estimated 10,000 workers took part in the demonstration. (Photo by Alfredo ESTRELLA/AFP/Getty Images)
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The seemingly healthy children who were studied have deficiencies in attention and short-term memory, and below-average scores in Verbal and Full Scale IQ tests compared to children exposed to low air pollution, according to the research published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease and Parkinsonism.

"This is not one isolated change, but it is a cluster of findings pointing in the same direction," Calderón-Garcidueñas said.

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While pollution is comprised of gases, such as ozone, particulate matter (PM 2.5) and organic compounds, weather also plays a role in its formation, AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jason Nicholls said.

"Under strong areas of high pressure, air masses can become stagnant with no flow thus trapping pollution in valleys or under inversions," Nicholls said. "An inversion is a deviation in the lower atmosphere where temperatures rise with height from the surface to a few thousand feet. Temperatures normally cool with height; this is fairly common in the mid-latitudes."

Significant exposures to air pollutants also increase the Alzheimer's risk for people over 65 years old, according to separate research released earlier this year, Calderón-Garcidueñas said.

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"The most important issue is the possibility of neuroprotection," she said. "The public should also know there is no money at all for air-pollution Alzheimer's disease-associated research at the most vulnerable stage of life: when the brain is in development."

"Since the most important sources of PM 2.5 are combustion sources [gasoline, oil, diesel, etc.], you wonder why this type of information is not available to the public, and of course why there is no interest in protecting the exposed population. We have millions of children living in polluted cities in the USA and it seems nobody cares," she added.

The latest findings build on more than a decade of research conducted by Calderón-Garcidueñas on the air pollution connections. Previously, Alzheimer-like precursors were found in dogs from Mexico City.

RELATED GALLERY: Check out photos of China's problem with pollution:

33 PHOTOS
pollution in china
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Research finds link between Mexico City air pollution and early signs of Alzheimer's in children
CHENGDU, CHINA - JUNE 30: Apartment buildings rise into the smog filled skyline June 30, 2015 in Chengdu, China. First inhabited more than 4 thousand years ago, Chengdu now has more than 14 million people living in its metropolitan area. It is China's 5th most populous city and the provincial capital of Sichuan Province in southwest China. The city is is struggling to maintain its ancient cultural identity, while becoming a modern major tech and industrial center. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - MARCH 03: A delegate wearing the mask walks to the Great Hall of the People during severe pollution before the opening of the 2nd session of the 12th Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) on March 3, 2014 in Beijing, China. Air pollution has become a big concern during the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. Over 2,000 members of the 12th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative, a political advisory body, are attending the annual session, during which they will discuss the development of China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)
This picture taken on June 23, 2015 shows vehicles running in smog covered streets in Beijing. China's cities are often hit by heavy pollution, blamed on coal-burning by power stations and industry, as well as vehicle use. The issue has become a major source of popular discontent with the Communist Party, leading the government to vow to reduce the proportion of energy derived from fossil fuels. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
In this Tuesday, June 9, 2015 photo, Indian policemen wear masks as they control traffic in New Delhi, India. Never mind lowering the rate of death from air pollution in India and China. Just keeping those rates steady will demand urgent action to clear the skies, according to a new report published Tuesday, June 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
This picture taken on June 23, 2015 shows a cyclist wearing a mask in Beijing covered by heavy smog. China's cities are often hit by heavy pollution, blamed on coal-burning by power stations and industry, as well as vehicle use. The issue has become a major source of popular discontent with the Communist Party, leading the government to vow to reduce the proportion of energy derived from fossil fuels. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
A Chinese woman wearing a facemask walks in front of the Forbidden City on a hazy day in Beijing on June 23, 2015. AFP PHOTO / FRED DUFOUR (Photo credit should read FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)
In this Friday, March 8, 2013 Chinese paramilitary policemen march across Tiananmen Square on a hazy day in Beijing, China. Facing public outrage over smog-choked cities and filthy rivers, China's leaders are promising to clean up its neglected environment, a pledge that sets up a clash with political pressures to keep economic growth strong. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
A golfer plays on the court on a hazy day at Pine Valley Golf Club on the outskirts of Beijing, China, Sunday, Oct. 6, 2013. Fog and pollution descended on northern China on Sunday, forcing international golf and tennis players to play in hazardous smog and leading to flight cancellations and road closures as millions of Chinese headed home from a national holiday. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)
Residents cross an overhead bridge during a hazy day in Beijing, China, Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013. Endless lines of slow-moving cars emerge like apparitions and disappear into the gloom of the thick smog that has shrouded Beijing for weeks and reduced its skyline to blurry gray shapes. With more than 12 million cars sold in China last year, motor vehicles have emerged as the chief culprit for the throat-choking air pollution in big cities especially Beijing.(AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
Vehicles crawl along a major road in Beijing, China, Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013. Endless lines of slow-moving cars emerge like apparitions and disappear into the gloom of the thick smog that has shrouded Beijing for weeks and reduced its skyline to blurry gray shapes. With more than 12 million cars sold in China last year, motor vehicles have emerged as the chief culprit for the throat-choking air pollution in big cities especially Beijing.(AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
A China Eastern Airlines plane, bottom, is seen taxiing as the Beijing Capital International Airport is shrouded by pollution haze in Beijing Monday, March 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Air China passenger planes taxi at the Beijing Capital International Airport shrouded by pollution haze in Beijing Monday, March 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Chinese people wearing face masks walk against the capital city skyline shrouded by a haze of pollution in Beijing Monday, March 3, 2014. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Chinese women wearing masks cross the road near the headquarters of the China Central Television headquarters during a hazy day in Beijing, China, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014. Beijing remained cloaked in hazardous white pollution hiding much of its skyline Wednesday, despite the announced closures or production cuts at 147 of the city's industrial plants. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
Construction workers walk into a work site during a hazy day in Beijing, China, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014. Beijing remained cloaked in hazardous white pollution hiding much of its skyline Wednesday, despite the announced closures or production cuts at 147 of the city's industrial plants. Chinese characters at bottom left reads "China dream, my dream" at right reads "China, Go!" (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
A farmer shovels in a field near electric pylons in heavy haze on a severely polluted day in Shijiazhuang, in northern China's Hebei province, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)
Women walk up an overpass near a highway during a hazy day in Beijing, China, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014. Beijing remained cloaked in hazardous white pollution hiding much of its skyline Wednesday, despite the announced closures or production cuts at 147 of the city's industrial plants. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
A man wears a mask during a hazy day in Beijing, China, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014. Beijing remained cloaked in hazardous white pollution hiding much of its skyline Wednesday, despite the announced closures or production cuts at 147 of the city's industrial plants. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
A man and a car travelling on a road are obscured in heavy haze on a severely polluted day in Pingshan county of Shijiazhuang, in northern China's Hebei province, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014. Chinese President Xi Jinping braved Beijing's choking smog Tuesday, making an unannounced visit to a trendy alley and sitting with residents in his latest public relations effort to be seen as a man of the people. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)
Men wearing masks walk near a road during a day of heavy pollution in Beijing, China, Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
Cars clog in the traffic in Beijing's Central Business District on a hazy day, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014. A rare air pollution alert issued Friday in Beijing prompted health advisories and bans on barbeques, fireworks and demolition work, but fell short of the strictest measures which would include ordering half the city’s cars off the streets. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)
A tourist wearing a protective mask stands by as a couple look at buildings in Pudong across the Huangpu River shrouded in heavy haze, at the Bund in Shanghai, China, Friday, Dec. 20, 2013. Shanghai’s environmental protection bureau issued a “yellow” pollution warning this afternoon and said it was taking “emergency emission reduction” measures and recommended that children, the elderly and people suffering from heart disease or lung disease should stay indoors and cease outdoor exercises. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
A tourist with a protective mask watches the buildings at the Bund under heavy haze in Shanghai, China, Monday, Dec. 9, 2013. The dirty air that has gripped Shanghai and its neighboring provinces for days is attributed to coal burning, car exhaust, factory pollution and weather patterns, and is a stark reminder that pollution is a serious challenge in China. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
A couple in protective masks walk under haze in Shanghai, China, Friday, Dec. 6, 2013. Shanghai authorities ordered schoolchildren indoors and halted all construction Friday as China's financial hub suffered one its worst bouts of air pollution, bringing visibility down to a few dozen meters and obscuring the city's spectacular skyline. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
Houses and buildings are covered with heavy haze in Shanghai, China, Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013. China, one of the most visited countries in the world, has seen sharply fewer tourists this year - with worsening air pollution partly to blame. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
Houses and buildings are covered with haze in Shanghai, China, Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013. China, one of the most visited countries in the world, has seen sharply fewer tourists this year - with worsening air pollution partly to blame. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
Houses and buildings are covered with haze in Shanghai, China, Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013. China, one of the most visited countries in the world, has seen sharply fewer tourists this year - with worsening air pollution partly to blame. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
This picture taken on March 29, 2014 shows residents breathing 'mountain air' from blue bags in a square in Zhengzhou in central China's Henan province, reportedly brought in from 190 kms away by a Henan-based travel company as part of a promotional event. Premature deaths and health problems from air pollution cost China as much as 300 billion USD a year, an official joint report by the World Bank and the Development Research Center of the State Council said on March 25, calling for a new urbanisation model for the world's second-largest economy. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - APRIL 09: People with mask walk in Nanluoguxiang on April 9, 2014 in Beijing, China. China is vowing to ammend its procedures to curb pollution as smog in some areas of China have registered over 20 times the level considered safe by the World Health Organization (WHO) (Photo by Xiao Lu Chu/Getty Images)
This picture taken on March 29, 2014 shows residents breathing 'mountain air' from blue bags in a square in Zhengzhou in central China's Henan province, reportedly brought in from 190 kms away by a Henan-based travel company as part of a promotional event. Premature deaths and health problems from air pollution cost China as much as 300 billion USD a year, an official joint report by the World Bank and the Development Research Center of the State Council said on March 25, calling for a new urbanisation model for the world's second-largest economy. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
This picture taken on March 26, 2014 shows a girl wearing a mask in Beijing as environmental authorities issued a 'yellow' smog alert for the capital. Chinese companies have offered up a fresh idea to help pollution-weary travellers while cashing in on public concerns over dirty air at the same time -- smog insurance. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - MARCH 26: The people wear face mask walking on the road in smog in Beijing, China, on March 26, 2014. Chinese authorities suggest that old people and those who are sensitive should not get out from their house. Symbolic buildings of Beijing cannot seen due to the air pollution. (Photo by Ali Ihsan Cam/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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