Air pollution is known to cause respiratory problems, and a recent report gives us something new to worry about: researchers discovered large quantities of toxic nanoparticles in human brain tissue. Scientists are concerned the presence of these particles in the brain could possibly be linked Alzheimer’s disease. Professor David Allsop commented how inhaling air pollution through the nose leads the particles straight to the brain. From there they can spread “to other areas of the brain, including the hippocampus and cerebral cortex – regions affected in Alzheimer’s disease.”
The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, examined brain tissue from 37 different people and found copious quantities of an iron oxide called magnetite. Lancaster University professor Barbara Maher led the study, and she described her shock at the findings to The Guardian: “You are talking about millions of magnetite particles per gram of freeze-dried brain tissue – it is extraordinary,”
The most unsettling thing about the presence of magnetite in the brain is its potential connection to Alzheimer’s disease, as previous research indicates a direct link between the element and the kind of structural damage seen in brains with the condition. The particles were also found to have a “rounded nanosphere” shape, which happens as a result of burning fuel.
While the findings are still very preliminary in terms of proving a link, the team hopes that further research will determine how strong the correlation between magnetite and Alzheimer’s disease actually is and that the work can influence future policies. Maher reminds the public, “[I]f there’s at least a possibility that exposure to traffic pollution is having even worse health impacts than were previously known, then take the steps you can to reduce your dose as far as you can.”
Via The Guardian