Study: Dirty City Air Can Damage Brains

The dirty air in the city could damage brain, researchers suggested this week.

According to the study published in the journal Stroke, brain scans showed that seniors exposed to higher levels of the kind of small particle pollution that can come from car exhaust had a higher risk of mini-strokes and a smaller brain volume compared to those living in less-polluted areas.

The study, by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Boston University School of Medicine, reexamined MRI scans done between 1995 and 2005 on 943 adults aged 60 and older who were relatively healthy, free of dementia and who had not had a stroke.

Information from the scans was then correlated with pollution data gathered fom satellite observations.

The researchers found that seniors living in the most-polluted areas have 46 percent higher risk of mini-strokes and a 0.32 percent reduction in brain volume than those live in areas with the cleanest air.

The new findings are “provocative,” said the study’s lead author, Elissa Wilker, an instructor of medicine at the Harvard Medical School and a researcher at the Cardiovascular Epidemiological Research Unit at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

In fact, dirty city air seems to cause the equivalent of a full year’s worth of aging inside the brain.

Wilker said: ‘This is one of the first studies to look at the relationship between ambient air pollution and brain structure.

‘Our findings suggest that air pollution is associated with insidious effects, even in dementia and stroke-free individuals,” she added.

Wilker doesn’t yet know how pollution could be harming the brain. She said, “We think when you breathe those particles in they can cause inflammation.”

Inflammation that starts in the lungs may then spread to the brain, she said.

The World Health Organization has noted fine particulate matter affects more people than any other pollutant, and chronic exposure can lead to serious disease and death.

WHO estimates air pollution caused 3.7 million premature deaths worldwide in 2012, with 88 percent occurring in low- and middle-income countries, mostly in the western Pacific and Southeast Asia.

 

Con información de Biotech Wired y The Governance & Accountability Institute.

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