Environmental campaigners say bold action to limit polluting traffic is needed as a new report showing the links between air pollution and dementia is released.

The report, published today (25 July 2022) by COMEAP, the UK Government’s Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants, suggests the most likely way that pollution impacts cognitive impairment is through circulation. Air pollutants, particularly small particles, can affect the heart and blood vessels, including the brain.

Environmental campaigners say that the Scottish Government and local councils are not taking enough action to reduce pollution from transport and other sources. Earlier this year, research by Friends of the Earth Scotland showed that Scotland breached air quality limits in 2021 after a historic low in 2020 due to the pandemic.

Friends of the Earth Scotland’s Transport Campaigner Gavin Thomson said:

“Today’s report from the UK Government is further evidence that air pollution is devastating for human health, and it’s really worrying to see the links with dementia being strengthened. We have known for a long time that traffic fumes cause asthma and heart conditions, and evidence has been growing about the risk that tiny particles – from exhaust fumes, tyres and brakes – pose to our cognitive health. It is particularly dangerous for young children, the elderly, and people with pre-existing health conditions.

“Four cities in Scotland will soon have small clean air zones limiting polluting vehicles from the city centre. This is the first action we’ve seen to tackle air pollution but it’s nowhere near enough. To improve air quality in our communities and neighbourhoods, we need significant investment in public transport so that everyone can access it, while providing more space for walking, wheeling and cycling.”