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(506) 2223-1327         Published Monday, Jan. 10, 2011,  in Vol. 11, No. 6           E-mail us
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Police numbers are beefed up in Limón province
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Fuerza Pública is putting 25 more officers in the Limón region and two bicycle officers in Pococí.

This was announced over the weekend at the same time that José María Tijerino Pacheco, the security minister, and Juan José Andrade, the police director, went to the two communities to meet with residents.

Limón Centro is a high-crime area, and there is continual trouble at the public docks where union workers frequently stage strikes and slowdowns. An armored car guard died in a robbery attempt there a week ago.

The new Limón officers will work under the regional chief, Marlon Cubillo. More officers are scheduled to be assigned to Pococí later in the year, officials said.

The increased police personnel in the province likely will result in an increased presence along the Caribbean coast down to Sixaola. Residents in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca and Cahuita have sought more police for some time.

For police officers raised in the Central Valley, the Limón assignment will be challenging. Many in Limón speak three languages, Spanish, English and a creole. Many are descendants of Jamaican workers brought in to build the Atlantic railroad and later on the banana plantations.

The province is a route for smugglers bringing
new policemen
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguridad Pública photo
New officers are presented to the community.

drugs and other goods in from Panama. The southern section in the Talamanca mountains is home to many marijuana plantations.

Some physicians at the Hospital Tony Facio in Limón demanded and received transfers elsewhere when they were threatened two years ago by extortionists.

The Fuerza Pública there has had its bad cops, too. In May two former officers got maximum sentences for delivering two young men to their executioners. They used their police powers to detain the men in Cahuita and then delivered them at gunpoint to members of a rival drug gang in Valle de Estrellas.

There have been lesser scandals.

The increase in police for Limón is in keeping with the Chinchilla administration philosophy that flooding the streets with officers reduces crime.

Alajuela fighter Hanna Gabriels wins in Uruguay
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Hanna Gabriels retained her world title at 154 pounds Sunday night when she defeated U.S. boxer Melisenda Pérez in Uruguay.

Ms. Gabriels, the favorite, went into the ring at 153.5, a pound heavier than her opponent. The victory was on a technical knockout in the 10th and final round. Referee Rodolfo Stella called the fight at 1:04 of that round when it became obvious that Ms. Pérez could not defend herself. Ms. Gabriels had her opponent against the ropes.

Ms. Gabriels of Alajuela also was five years older at 27 than her opponent.
The event was at the Hotel & Casino Conrad at Punta del Este. The fight was televised live in Costa Rica by Teletica.

Ms. Gabriels maintains her unbeaten record at 11-0 with one draw.

Casa Presidencial reported that President Laura Chinchilla talked by telephone with the boxer before the fight.

Ms. Gabriels won the championship last May in an astonishing 11-second fight against Gardy Pena in Puerto Rico. In December 2009, she won the 147-pound women's championship in a fight in Nicaragua.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Jan. 10, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 6

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Palmares fiesta will get
beer modification program


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Expats and tourists who are not worn out with holiday parties have yet another fiesta to put on the to-do list.

This is the two-week event at Palmares that starts Wednesday.

Like most Costa Rican fiestas, the one in Palmares hosts several large beer tents, and some visitors go there mainly to drink and dance.

The health ministry is trying to crack down on this activity this year in conjunction with the sponsor of the fiesta, the Asociación Cívica Palmareña, and Floridas Bebidas, the parent firm of Cervercería Costa Rica.

The health minister, María Luisa Ávila, is expected to announce a program to encourage moderation in drinking. She has a press conference scheduled for today.

A ministry announcement said that the ministry would be taking unspecified actions to change the dynamics of the fiesta to reduce the abuse of alcohol.

If the health ministry actions are not enough, the Policía de Tránsito is planning extensive roadblocks to catch drunk or partly drunk drivers. Costa Rica not only has a drunk driving limit, but there also is a limit to what can be called driving while the ability is impaired by alcohol. Both carry heavy fines.

That is why many expats and Costa Ricans take buses to the fiesta. Some private companies are advertising trips in small buses with the return to the Central Valley between 10 p.m. and midnight.

Thursday is the day for the Palmares tope, which rivals the post-Christmas horse parade in San José. That event will be carried by one or both of the San José commercial television stations.


Central Pacific hotel
now part of Vail Resorts


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

RockResorts International, LLC – a subsidiary of Vail Resorts, Inc. – announced that it is expanding and enhancing its collection of luxury resorts with the addition of Alma del Pacifico Hotel, an existing beachfront Costa Rican property currently named Xandari by the Pacific.
 
Vail Resorts' lodging division took over management of hotel operations in mid-December and after the holiday season the hotel’s name will change from Xandari by the Pacific Resort and Spa on Playa Esterillos Estes to Alma del Pacifico Hotel. Alma del Pacifico Hotel will continue to operate and welcome guests this winter, the company said. During spring and summer, a thorough renovation of the property is planned for all common areas, guest rooms, the spa and food and beverage outlets, it said. The renovation will be followed by the re-launch of the property under the RockResorts brand with the official name of Alma del Pacifico Hotel, A RockResort.
 
RockResorts said it also has been engaged to manage all hospitality and lodging operations at the adjoining Del Pacifico at Esterillos master planned residential development, including that development’s existing property management program and certain commercial activities. Future plans at Del Pacifico at Esterillos include an equestrian center, 18-hole golf course, boutique hotel and additional residential units.
 
Located on Playa Esterillos Este, the hotel and the master planned development are located halfway between Jacó Beach and Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio. Alma del Pacifico Hotel features spacious private beachfront villas designed by architect Sherrill Broudy, with original paintings, mosaics and tapestries by artist Charlene Broudy, as well as private terraces with views of the Pacific Ocean or lush gardens, the company said. Del Pacifico at Esterillos is a 700-acre master planned resort community designed by architect Dhiru Thandani with town planner, Leon Krier, contributing to the design and plan for La Prada, the town center for the seaside community.
 
Alma del Pacifico Hotel currently boasts two swimming pools, an outdoor Jacuzzi, herb and vegetable gardens, an art galley, an artisan shop, a restaurant and bar, a fitness center and a spa, said the company.
 
Founded in 1956 in the Caribbean by Laurance Rockefeller, RockResorts was acquired and re-launched by Vail Resorts in 2001. Currently there are 10 RockResort properties located in Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Aspen, Colorado, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Santa Fe, New México, Miami, Florida, and St. Lucia. Half Moon in Rose Hall, Jamaica is becoming a RockResort this month followed by Balcones del Atlántico in the Dominican Republic.


Seven held after raids
sparked by kidnap case


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Prosecutors say that seven men kidnapped a 16-year-old boy as he left his home in the evening of Dec. 30, but the youth is safe at home now and seven suspects have been detained.

The Poder Judicial said that four raids were made Friday morning in Los Cuadros de Goicoechea and the seven were detained.

The youth, who lives in Curridabat, had been released Tuesday after his parents paid a 1 million-colon ransom under instructions from the Judicial Investigating Organization. Agents observed the payment.

The Poder Judicial indentified the suspects by their last names: Aguilera Chavarría, Espinoza Veliz, Chaves Carballo, Zúñiga Fernández, Campos Delgado, Calderón Mora and Cordero Rivera.

U.S. Gulf chamber planning
trade mission in March


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Gulf Coast Latin Chamber of Commerce is planning a trade mission to Costa Rica from March 6 to March 9. The chamber said the purpose of the mission was to identify, develop and maintain trade and business relationships and connections between Tampa Bay Area and the State of Florida industries and businesses with businesses and industries in Costa Rica in a variety of commercial, industrial and services sectors.

The trade mission also is sponsored by The Translation Link, LLC, a business consulting and translation services provider.


Lottery agency donates
nearly $2 million for storm


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The agency that operates the lotteries has turned over one billion colons to the national emergency commission to help persons who suffered damage from flooding and slides caused by Tropical Storm Tomas in the first few days of November.

The amount is about $1,975,000.

The lottery operator, the Junta de Protección Social, routinely makes donations to the emergency commission and many other agencies and organization. This donation was earmarked specifically for flood victims.


University student's body
found off Pacific coast

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Searchers found the body Friday of an Atlanta, Georgia, university student who was swept away by a rip tide in Dominical Tuesday.

He was Erik L. Downes, 20, of Cape Coral, Florida. The body was found off Playa Piñuelas, Oglethorpe University announced.

Students and faculty members were in Costa Rica for a short-term ecotourism study abroad trip.  A premed major, Downes served as vice president of the Student Government Association and led the Student Senate, the university said.  Downes was graduated from the Canterbury School in Fort Myers, Fla.

 
Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is the section where you can scan short summaries from the Spanish-language press. If you want to know more, just click on a link and you will see and longer summary and have the opportunity to read the entire news story on the page of the Spanish-language newspaper but translated into English.

Translations may be a bit rough, but software is improving every day.

When you see the Summary in English of news stories not covered today by A.M. Costa Rica, you will have a chance to comment.

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him HERE!

From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
Click a story for the summary








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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Jan. 10, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 6
Latigo K-9

A.M. Costa Rica guest editorial
Baby boomer retirement suggests upswing in rentals demand

Angela Jimenez Rocha*
Special to A.M. Costa Rica
 
The Economist Magazine indicates that 78 million Baby Boomers will start retirement in 2011.  Assuming that this trend runs over the next 10 years, that means approximately 10 million per year in the first few years since the bulge is bigger in the front years.

Where will they go and what will they do is the big question mark about the effect they will have on real estate values.  Reading a recent major newspaper from a city of several  million in the South of the U. S., the rental market seems to be in a crisis with ad after ad offering free move in, no deposit, utilities included, special discount, etc. etc.  In the rental market we follow closely here in Escazú and Santa Ana, the rental prices are not in the same crisis mode. 

We have more requests for rentals than we have availability and while prices have not increased much they certainly have not gone down.  Sales prices may be stagnant for house resells but land in the central valley has continued steady if not gone up.

Which brings me to comment on all the anti- and pro-letters you are receiving about Costa Rica from the Gringo market.  Supply and demand are always fundamental to real estate values.  A.M. Costa Rica has published various articles from our company (orbitcostarica.com) about the several methods of valuation of real estate appraisals for those who want to see them.

Upon reflection, this market in the Central Valley of Costa Rica has never been in the type of crisis that exists in the  U. S.  There are many reasons why, but the three main ones are:

1.  Banks here almost never loaned excessively; 

2. The large amount of money that flowed out of Venezuela; 

3. Continued immigration from other countries than the U.S., especially Canada and several European Countries.
Recent visitors indicate to me that what we are attracting is a higher class of people to Costa Rica for retirement, etc. which includes  PhD from Michigan State University, PhD from Western Illinois University, PhD from Cal Tech,  Harvard MBA, 30-year member of the New York Stock Exchange, one of the largest shopping center developers in the U. S.

Look at the numbers of high rise buildings around the Sabana and the planned 28-story high rise on Paseo Colon.  Why is this investment being made?

Back to the numbers just for the U. S.  If just 1/10 of 1 percent of the Baby Boomers come to Costa Rica each year, that is 10,000 per year.  I highly doubt there exists adequate Gringo-type rentals to meet this need in the Central Valley.  This is where I think the demand will be, not at the beaches.

It is quite conceivable that the rental market will boom over the next five years and, if it does, then sales prices will follow along, although this may lag a year or two.
Of course, our country has inefficiency and other problems but has never been in the real estate crisis of the U. S., Europe, and Australia etc.

Why do people come to Costa Rica?

The climate of course, but one of the big changes will be the drastic decrease in quality in available health care in the U. S. if the prognosticators are correct.  Here you can obtain quality medical care for 20 percent of the cost of the U. S. in a private hospital.  The new rules for residency directing people to join the Caja for as low as $25 month is an afterthought. The INS, our insurance company, offers a health insurance policy for $120 month or lower with small deductible for those who want a private hospital.

There may be a surprise in many more people coming than leaving sooner than most consider possible.

* Among other qualifications, Ms. Jiménez is a professional appraiser and licensed architect.


Escazú man's new book finds faults with major religions
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Escazú resident Sam Butler is taking on the major religions of the worlds all at the same time.

He has published a book titled "A Curse on All Their Houses: How Religious SCRIPTURE and Practices Support Intolerance, Violence, and Even War."

His goal is to expose fraud, hypocrisy and forgery of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and the Mormon faith. A target is the Christian Bible as well as the Old Testament. Butler notes that many of the stories associated with biblical figures can be found in earlier civilizations: The story of Moses being fished out of a river is similar to an earlier tale involving Sargon the Great. Butler also compiled a long list of religious figures who were crucified well before the time of Christ and one, Mithra, who was born on Dec. 25, who was the son of a God and who had a virgin for a mother.

Butler self-published the book via a subsidiary of Amazon.com. It was released in November.

Butler said he did so because he believes religion is responsible for massive numbers of deaths through history. He cited the Inquisition as well as the 1,400-year-old struggle between rival branches of Islam that still sows violence in the Middle East.

His solution is a set of ethical standards, similar to the 10 Commandments.

Butler also maintains a Web site where he updates his arguments with current events. The latest addition is a report of a Roman Catholic priest who left a responsible job with the Vatican. The priest maintains that the story of Christ admonishing those who would stone a woman for adultery is a later addition to the Gospel of John because the story does not appear in the earliest manuscripts attributed to John.
Sam Butler's bookcover
Book cover

Butler's arguments are more confrontational but still in the tradition of Joseph Campbell, the late U.S. academic who wrote "The Hero with 1,000 Faces," and the "Masks of the Gods" series.

Despite his criticisms of religion, Butler is not one of those people who believes that death is the end of the trail.

He said Sunday that he believes in reincarnation.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Jan. 10, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 6


Our reader's opinion
Some good words for rapid and effective police response


By Richard Sims
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The day was a nice one.  It didn’t rain until about 5 in the afternoon, just in time to catch everyone off guard at quitting time.  My brother was visiting me from the U.S. We were wrapping up some last minute shopping before the stores closed.

I have lived in Barrio Otoya (just north of downtown) for more than 10 years. Great place!  There are eight hotels in this neighborhood of about five blocks.  Otoya is a quiet, secure barrio where most of the San José-bound tourists end up eating at Café Mundo, visiting the Sportsman’s Lodge or taking photos of the historic old homes.  The ministry of foreign affairs building (La Casa Amarilla) has round-the-clock security, and we are only a park away from the downtown walking boulevards.  

Despite the great day, rain had been threatening all afternoon, so we carried umbrellas on our visit to el centro.  About 6:30 p.m. we started the five-minute walk from downtown to home near the Casa Amarilla.  We were talking about normal things, focusing more on avoiding the rain that what we had to say at the moment.

My brother was a few steps ahead of me.  Having lived here for 15 years, I’ve finally developed a perspective on which hands to shake and which to slap.  The key to surviving the short walk from downtown to Barrio Otoya is to keep strangers at a safe distance.  For years, I’ve carried a licensed handgun just in case.   As we walked in front of the Peruvian School (directly in front of the Holiday Inn) we noticed a crowd of teenagers pounding on the metal doors. We didn’t think much about it. As we passed by, two teens started harassing my brother – asking for money, provoking him in an aggressive and unusual way.

I saw the scandal and jumped in to break things up. They were way too close to his billfold and passport.  I warned them several times to back off, but they continued the harassing, seemingly more aggressive than before - annoyed that I had suggested an ultimatum.  

Finally, at point blank range, my brother pushed one of them back with the umbrella.  The second kid jumped in and tried to break it.  They were tiny punks, but they kept up the pursuit – definitely provoking a fight and possibly trying to steal the low hanging fruit on our belt packs.  We were surprised at the kids’ bravado, given their limited physical attributes.   A few more seconds of the nonsense and the kids got out of control – dancing around wildly, screaming and threatening to attack us.  One of them jumped in the air and kicked my leg.  Then he spit on me.  I took the umbrella (the good one) and belted him across the face, knocking him down, slicing his face in a diagonal across one cheek.

At that moment, a mob of more than 20 teens came racing down the street, attacking us from all angles.  The kids were afraid to get too close – running at us like they do at the Costa Rican style bullfights around Christmas – jump kicking and punching from a distance as they ran by – none of them risking a head to head encounter, but everyone anxious for their slice of drama.  The pursuit escalated from a couple punks harassing tourists to something starting to look and act like a riot.

Once we were surrounded by dozens of hostile teens, some smaller and some bigger than us, I drew my stun gun.  It is a hand held device that shoots a stunning voltage charge from a hard plastic base.   It is designed for a last chance ally at close combat range.  By now, there were more than 20 kids around us, and twice as many running down the
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hill to join the rumble.  Combat was the only option.  The situation was taking on intensity.   By now it was two against 20+.  The odds were bending quickly out of favor.   

No matter how many we took out, within a few more seconds, we would be on the ground, taking sissy kicks and who knows what else from dozens of over-revved teens en route to a soccer match at 8 p.m.  Like the intoxicated fans who tip over police cars after a bowl game victory, the mob converted into its own little team of spastic warriors.  The odds of two dozen teenagers against two 40-something American guys inspired a momentum frenzy that was swiftly raging out of control.

Then, in an amazing display of precision and timing, a bizarre number of armed policemen came charging onto the scene like a cavalry surge without the horses.  Costa Rican police had teenagers in headlocks, plowing them to the ground.  The crowd instantly scattered – teens sprinting in reverse, running sideways, back tracking towards the Peruvian School.  The crowd thinned, re-grouping like pellets of mercury dropped on a wet table.  The metal police wagon rolled in and loaded up several individuals.  The policemen were courteous with us.  We thanked them and continued towards Barrio Otoya.  One hundred yards away, a “Meeting of Ministers” had convened on Wednesday night at the Casa Amarilla.  Bulletproof cars and armed security escorts talked outside the historic steps, waiting on their diplomats.  Everything normal!

An hour later I walked back across Parque Morazán between the Holiday Inn and the north entrance to the Sleep Inn (Casino Colonial) – curious to see how things looked after the show.  As it turned out the crowd was waiting on a bus to visit the soccer game. The crowd was rowdy, unusual for this area. “Basico 48” from the Distrito Carmen Unit reacted to a call and dispatched 80 armed policemen to monitor a suspicious crowd of teens, only moments before our coincidental arrival.   Some of the guards had been watching  the whole ordeal.  Once the punches started, more than half of them came sprinting from the Gazebo Monument in front of the Holiday Inn to join the thrash.  Just in time!

The spokesman from Basic Unit #48 showed me some of the drugs confiscated from the little rebels.  He assured me that the kids had been sent to the detention center downtown for administrative check-in.  “Seis meses probation, he said…..at a minimum.”  He was one of the first to help.  I congratulated him on the maneuver and told him that I was going to write an article about this experience.  “Gracias,” he said, proudly as I walked back towards home.

I’m writing the story to congratulate the Distrito Carmen Dispatch on an excellent job. Had they not arrived on the scene within a few seconds, a lot of bad things would have occurred.  I’ve been here for more than 10 years and have noticed that the police force in this area has increased drastically over the past couple years. 

I applaud this administration and the group of policemen for their good and timely work.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Jan. 10, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 6

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Haiti is in shambles
a year after big quake


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Jan. 12 marks the one-year anniversary of the earthquake that devastated the Caribbean nation of Haiti. One-year later, reconstruction is moving at a snail’s pace, millions of people are still without a permanent home, a cholera epidemic has killed thousands, and the recent first-round of the presidential election is under investigation for fraud.

Only an estimated 5 percent of the capital’s rubble has been cleared, and many streets are still blocked by debris. Makeshift camps in and around Port-au-Prince house more than a million people.

A year ago, the people lived under plastic tarps or tents provided by aid organizations. Today, some of the structures are more permanent, made of tin and wood.

33-year-old Jacques Pierre, has been living in a tent for the past year. A small bed, a five-gallon bucket of water, and some cooking pots are his only worldly possessions. A few pairs of jeans and tee shirts are in a pile on the bed. Unemployed, he survives on food coupons provided by aid organizations and the generosity of neighbors. And he appears tired and worn from the year of uncertainty.

"I am frustrated because there is nobody that is going to come around here and give us help. The whole situation is hopeless," he said.

The camps are also increasingly dangerous, particularly for women. According to the human rights organization Amnesty International, violence against women and sexual assaults are on the rise.

20-year-old Manuella Laurent was upset and angry. She said two young men just put a knife to her throat and took the food coupons she was given by an aid organization. Tall, lean, with purple highlights in her hair, she leaned closer to show the scratch on her neck where the knife was held. 

She said several nights ago when her mother was away, three young men with guns pounded on the door of her shelter demanding sex. Neighbors heard the scuffle and scared the men away.

Adding to Haiti's misery is the cholera epidemic that so far has killed 3,500 people. The only bright spot: officials are cautiously optimistic the epidemic is diminishing in many parts of the country.

At a cholera facility in Port-au-Prince, Norwegian doctor Karine Nordstrand showed some of the treatment tents. Rows of patients lie on wooden beds with circular holes cut in the center so they can defecate into buckets below.  IV bags full of saline solution hang over their heads. 

Dr. Nordstrand said it is usually three to four days of treatment and patients are back on their feet. At this facility the number of patients is on the decline. "Last week we had about 40 or 50 new patients per day. In the whole center now we have about 120 patients. And as compared to earlier, the week of Christmas was about 110 new patients per day," she said.

As the anniversary of the earthquake nears, frustration over the lack of progress in the country is spilling into the streets. There are now daily protests against the government of President Rene Preval.

Down with Preval, they chant.  They march through the streets picking up more protesters block by block. As they pass a white tour bus stuck in heavy traffic, one man pulls out a can of spray paint and writes, "Down with Preval" in red paint along the side of the bus. Police riding in a pickup truck 10 meters away look-on and do nothing.

Former Port-Au-Prince mayor and opposition leader Evans Paul also blames the Preval government and the political process for the lack of progress. He spoke in the yard of what was his very large house on top of a hill overlooking the city. The house, now a pile of rubble, was destroyed in the quake. He was trapped in the rubble for 30 minutes before being rescued.

"The first problem is there is a major mismanagement problem. Instead of the government trying to work toward solving the problems the people face, they are consumed with trying to hold on to power," said Paul.
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Jan. 10, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 6

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Air pollution blamed
for hurting seniors' minds

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

People who live in polluted cities can see the grit and dirt produced from vehicle engines but some of the most damaging emissions are only now starting to be understood. They’re ultrafine particles that are way too small to be seen. Hundreds of these particles, placed side by side, match the width of a human hair and are primarily produced by combustion in diesel engines. 

Now they are being blamed for affecting the brain of older men.

Harvard doctoral researcher Melinda Power reports that ultrafines are a more significant problem than emission gasses or those large particles that make skin dirty. 

"They can actually get absorbed in through the surface of the lung, into your body, or they can travel straight up the olfactory nerves into your brain," says Ms. Power. "And so these particulates because they are so small have the potential to not only enter the body but then interact with the cellular machinery of the body as well."

To study the effects of this pollution on seniors and their cognition, Ms. Power took data from a study of older men who live in and around the Boston area.  In addition to collecting health information, researchers gave the men tests that measured their thinking.

Then Ms. Power matched the data about the men to their addresses.

"People who live next to major roads are going to have much higher exposure to traffic related particulates than people who live further away," said Ms. Power. "The largest determinant of indoor air quality is outdoor air quality.  So all of our houses have some exchange of air with the outside and what's outside will end up inside."

Ms. Power found that a doubling of traffic pollution was associated with having a lower score on cognition tests, even lower than what would be expected with normal aging.

She said there are only one or two other studies that look at the association between cognition and pollution. But she says she feels confident she’s identified an important phenomenon that needs to be examined more thoroughly.  She plans several more studies to do that.

Ms. Power’s paper is published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.



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