New research shows tiny particulate matter enters the brain. This particulate matter originates from traffic emissions and is suspected to be toxic. The researchers describe their findings as “dreadfully shocking” and wonder which health risks are involved.
In the research, brain tissue from 37 individuals was examined, of which 29 people lived and died in Mexico City and had reached an age between 3 and 85 years old. The other 8 were from Manchester and were aged between 62 and 92. Some of these people had died with varying severities of neurodegenerative disease.
The brain tissue of all of the people showed high numbers of particulate matter. The researchers have previously found magnate particles in the outdoor air, measured next to a busy road in Lancaster and a power plant. The main researcher, Prof Barbara Maher, suggested these particles could also be found in the human brain.
While examining the brain tissue, exactly these particles were found. Prof Maher mentions to BBC News “It’s dreadfully shocking. When you study the tissue you see the particles distributed between the cells and when you do a magnetic extraction there are millions of particles, millions in a single gram of brain tissue – that’s a million opportunities to do damage.”
In order to find the origin of these particles, they have been examined thoroughly. Results show the particles have a round shape, which is only seen in particles which are formed in engines and brake systems under high temperatures. The particles can therefore only derive from traffic emissions.
Prof Maher mentions to BBC News: “So for the first time we saw these pollution particles inside the human brain.” “It’s a discovery finding. It’s a whole new area to investigate to understand if these magnetite particles are causing or accelerating neurodegenerative disease.”
Additionally, for each magnetite particle, they found 100 pollution-derived ones, which is remarkable and a cause for concern. However, these concentrations were not consistent over all brain tissues.
Influence on health
Up till now, there is no specific evidence for the link between pollution particles in the air and for example Alzheimer’s or other neurodegenerative diseases. However, there are strong suspicions that this is in fact the case. Especially focussed on the smallest particles, which are not stopped in the nose and lungs, but are so small they enter the brain directly through the nose.
Prof David Allsop, Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases specialist and co-author of the above mentioned research, mentions to BBC News pollution particles “could be an important risk factor” for these conditions. Even though there is no specific evidence to back this claim, he mentions “These particles are made out of iron and iron is very reactive so it’s almost certainly going to do some damage to the brain.” “It can’t be benign.”
Other researchers do not link this immediately to each other. The research doesn’t show magnetite particles causes Alzheimer’s or make it worse.
Even though, it is advisable to limit the exposure to particulate matter. Outside, this is very difficult, but indoors air purification can be a solution. Take a look at the air purifiers of VFA Solutions to see the possibilities. Are you unsure which air purifier is suited for your situation? Contact us to receive a personal advice.