Elissa Wilker, researcher at Cardiovascular Epidemiological Research Unit at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and instructor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, told NBC reporters that new findings are revealing air pollution causes brain defects. Recent senior brain scans have revealed those close to high levels of pollutant air particles that are small (which come from car exhaust) have a higher risk of smaller brain volume and mini-strokes, compared to those living in less-polluted areas. She also told reporters that polluted air causes a full year of aging inside the brain.
These findings equal bad news for those who live within the city. In an experiment conducted by BICMC; researchers tested the air exposure levels of pollutants and brain scans of 940 people with dementia of the age 60 and older, and compared the outcoming results. Their findings resulted in the following: two micrograms of air are polluted due to exhaust and other carbon monoxides, leading to 0.32 percent of the brain being reduced daily. It is natural for the brain volume to get smaller as a person ages, but if polluted air is causing the brain to get smaller faster, city-dwellers and people exposed to pollutant air regions are in big trouble. Researchers have also found that air pollution affecting the volume of the brain is leading to silent strokes. The strokes are only found when a brain scan is conducted, and they are linked to cognitive impairments and dementia.
The discovery that air pollution causes brain defects was theorized from the idea of inflammation in the brain. Studies have hypothesized whether or not increased air pollution caused inflammation. Research of the study referred to past cases of inflammation links, with a smaller volume of the brain.
Inflammation starts in the lungs and can spread to the brain, since breathing in through the mouth for air to go into lungs, moves oxygen to the brain. The oxygen being carried may lead to the continuation of pollutant particles that were not fully removed during the inhaling process resting in the brain, causing it to suffer from inflammation. Dr. Lawrence Wechsler, chairman of the department of neurology at the University of Pittsburgh and an expert unlinked with the study, told NBC that although many researchers have studied brain health and air pollution, this test is the closest to determine whether the number of air pollutants people are exposed to may lead to long-term brain damage.
Since research does not change environmental policies, scientist now have a base which they could continue to work from, until they formulate a way to stop inflammation and brain shrinkage. The following list contains some small steps individuals can take that can begin to make a huge impact on the world to reduce air pollution:
- Conserve energy (turn lights off)
- Limit Driving (carpooling, use public transportation, biking, walking, etc.)
- Combine errands for fewer trip
- Regular car maintenance
- When filling up the car, do not spill gasoline
- Avoid idling the car when it is left on
- Seal household cleaners, garden chemicals, and workshop chemicals/solvents
Following the aforementioned few steps will make a huge difference in the world, as well as one’s health. Air pollution causing brain defects is not only worrisome, but also preventable if individuals begin to take more care in the safety of the environment.
Opinion By Krystle Mitchell
Photo By V.T. Polywoda – Creativecommons Flickr License