Dementia and other neurological brain diseases are striking people younger and younger, according to a new study conducted by researchers from Bournemouth University in England and published in the journal Surgical Neurology International. These diseases have reached levels that are “almost epidemic,” the researchers said, and they reached them so quickly that environmental factors must be largely to blame.
“The rate of increase in such a short time suggests a silent or even a ‘hidden’ epidemic, in which environmental factors must play a major part, not just ageing,” lead researcher Colin Pritchard said. “Modern living produces multi-interactional environmental pollution but the changes in human morbidity, including neurological disease is remarkable and points to environmental influences.”
Death rates have more than doubled
The researchers compared the rates of neurological brain diseases in 21 Western countries from 1989 to 2010. They found that as of 2010, the average rate of onset for dementia was 10 years earlier than it was in 1989. In addition, deaths from neurological disease had increased significantly in people aged 55 to 74 and had nearly doubled in people aged 75 and older.
These changes were seen in all 21 countries, but the United States fared the worst by far. In the United States, neurological deaths in men older than 74 tripled from 1989 to 2010, and they increased nearly fivefold in women of the same age. More elderly U.S. women are now dying from brain diseases than from cancer for the first time in recorded history.
The researchers’ analysis showed that the findings could not simply be explained by improved treatment of other diseases.
“Crucially it is not just because people are living longer to get diseases they previously would not have lived long enough to develop but older people are developing neurological disease more than ever before,” Pritchard said.
Instead, a large part of the cause must be environmental changes that have taken place over the past two decades.
“The environmental changes in the last 20 years have seen increases in the human environment of petro-chemicals – air transport- quadrupling of motor vehicles, insecticides and rises in background electro-magnetic-field, and so on.
Could mercury exposure from vaccines play a role in the rising rates of early onset dementia? Until 2001, mercury-containing thimerosal was used as a preservative in many childhood vaccines. Even today, the substance is still used in adult vaccines as well as in flu shots given to children and adults.
In a study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease in 2010, researchers reviewed 100 prior experimental and clinical studies looking at the effects of mercury on cells, animals and humans. They found that long-term mercury exposure produced many of the same changes seen in Alzheimer’s disease, including confusion and impairments to memory and cognitive function.
“Mercury is clearly contributing to neurological problems, whose rate is increasing in parallel with rising levels of mercury,” researcher Richard Deth said. “It seems that the two are tied together.”
Aluminum, another common vaccine ingredient, has also been linked to dementia. For example, a 2009 study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that people with the highest aluminum content in their drinking water also had the highest risk of dementia. Clinical studies have also directly linked aluminum to brain damage.
Both aluminum and mercury are also widely found in the environment due to contamination from other sources. Coal-burning power plants are the world’s foremost source of mercury pollution and a major contributor to mercury contamination of fish. Dental fillings are also a major source of human mercury exposure.