Black Adults at Risk for Alzheimer’s Disease Live in More Polluted Areas, U.S. Study Finds

By Dan Vahaba, PhD, Duke Institute for Brain Sciences

A study by Duke and Columbia Universities finds older, non-white adults are more likely to live in areas with higher air pollution and near toxic disposal sites, among or environmental injustices, potentially underlying their cognitive health. 

“A lot of money has been spent on understanding the genetics and pathological characterization of Alzheimer's disease,” said P. Murali Doraiswamy, MBBS, FRCP, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University School of Medicine, and senior author of the study. “But we still don’t have a good way to quantify the dozens of environmental risks for the disease and how they may interact together.” 

The results add to a growing area of research exploring the connections between environmental factors and brain health, racial injustices, and aging, and suggests looking at a patient’s address may be just as important for care providers to consider as listening to their heart or ordering a brain scan. 

The results were published May 14 in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease Reports.  

CITATION: “Characterizing Neighborhood Vulnerabilities in Mild Cognitive Impairment using the Environmental Justice Index” Alisa Adhikari, Adaora Nwosu, Min Qian, Caroline Hellegers, Davangere P. Devanand, P. Murali Doraiswamy. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease Reports, May 14, 2024. DOI 10.3233/ADR-240020

Read the Full Press Release