The Brain

Updated May, 2022

* The systemic inflammation caused by air pollution also affects the brain

* Air pollution components, including toxic, metallic nanoparticles, reach the brain and can penetrate deeply into the parenchyma beginning in infancy.

* Many of the compounds adsorbed to particulate matter are neurotoxic.

* Many of the compounds adsorbed to particulate matter are neurotoxic.

*  Air pollution causes CNS oxidative stress, neuroinflammation, neuronal damage, neuronal loss, loss of brain mass in key areas that control memory, cortical stress measured by EEG, enhancement of Alzheimer type-abnormal filamentous proteins (beta amyloid and phosphorylated tau), BBB and microglial (immune system) changes, and cerebrovascular damage. Many of these changes can be found in infants, children and young adults.

* Air pollution exposure is associated with almost the full range of clinical neurologic disorders throughout the age spectrum, including lower intelligence, diminished motor function, attention deficit and behavioral problems, decreased cognition and accelerated dementia in adults, delinquent behavior in adolescents, higher rates of violent crime, higher rates of strokes, ALS, relapses in multiple sclerosis, autism, impaired olfactory sense, Parkinson’s, and other neurodegenerative diseases, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, schizophrenia and suicide. Air pollution is even associated with impaired cognition and decision making among numerous professions—indoor office workers, stock traders, chess players, and baseball umpires, for example. Air pollution reduces productivity of factory workers and call center employees.

* Acute air pollution exposure on the way to school affects students’ attention span during the ensuing school day.  Acute spikes of air pollution reduce test scores of grade school students, and air purifiers improve scores, even in areas where the pollution is below the EPA’s standards.

*Air pollution impairs olfactory function (i.e. sense of smell).

*Carbon monoxide in air pollution increases the risk of seizures in epileptic patients.

* Prenatal exposure to air pollution is particularly harmful to fetal brain development, even causing loss of white matter involving the left hemisphere, corpus callous and hippocampus, which results in impaired memory, cognition and behavioral disorders in childhood.   

Click here to listen to six physicians give a 75-minute presentation on how air pollution affects the brain, recorded Jan, 29, 2015.

[Medical References]