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Florida researchers will study the effects of sugar cane burning on brain health

 Before sugar cane is harvested, farmers set fire to it to burn away the leaves.
NPR
Before sugar cane is harvested, farmers set fire to it to burn away the leaves.

Particle pollution from sugar cane burning can cross the blood brain barrier and lead to brain inflammation.

Sugar cane burning in South Florida makes harvesting the crop easier and cheaper. But residents at the southern end of Lake Okeechobee in Palm Beach County may be at greater risk of Alzheimer’s and related dementia.

Particle pollution from sugar cane burning can cross the blood brain barrier and lead to brain inflammation.

Now, with a $4 million federal grant from the National Institutes of Health, a team of researchers will study the effects of sugar cane burning on brain health — and developing dementia — over five years.

"We are really interested in seeing if exposure on an intermittent basis leads to the same kind of exposures that we're seeing that have actually increased rates of Alzheimer's disease and related dementias in other parts of the world," said Lisa Wiese, the principal investigator and a professor at Florida Atlantic University’s College of Nursing.

Burning tends to happen year-round in other parts of the world.

The research team also includes researchers from the University of Miami.

Copyright 2023 Health News Florida