Study Says, Long Term Exposure to Air Pollution Affect the Brain

Written by Dr. Ahmed Zayed
Exposure to Air Pollution

Air pollution is the combination of solid particles and various gasses in the air. Solid particles can include chemicals from factories, pollen, dust, car emissions. All these materials are harmful and they are introduced to Earth’s atmosphere.

Air pollution should be taken seriously because it can cause various diseases in humans, damage other living organisms, harm entire environment, and lead to climate changes.

Air pollution not only have adverse effect on planet earth but also leads to various health problems. For example, air pollution can create different respiratory problems, heart conditions, and even cancer. Children who live in heavily polluted areas have higher risk of getting pneumonia and asthma.

Now, when we mentioned health problems, besides respiratory problems, and heart diseases, air pollution can lead or increase brain damage. Even though it might seem impossible, to some people, the study has proven the relation between air pollution and brain damage.

Air Pollution

The study was conducted by Elissa H. Wilker and her team. Elissa H. Wilker is in charge for Cardiovascular Epidemiology Research Unit at Beth Israel. The team confirmed that air pollution can eventually lead to stroke or dementia. The researches noticed that with the increased level of air pollution, the brain size decreases.

Further, the study found that this brain damage is only a gateway for more serious and more harmful brain damage and neurological disorders. That can happen even when the person is exposed to low level of air pollution.

Air Pollution2

The fine-particle pollution is one of the most dangerous and the most common types of air pollution. It is the result of burning coal, wood, car emissions and many other sources.

The research included 943 patients. The patients were examined by MRI before comparing the results with level of air pollution in the places where the patients lived. This is when the researches confirmed that patients who were exposed air pollution for long period of time, had decreased size of the brain.

According to researchers, the amount of change in the brain volume was equivalent to one year of aging of the brain.

All participants of the research were older than 60. Participants who were diagnosed with dementia or stroke were excluded so the study was based on people who were free of stroke and dementia. However, the research did show that the increase of only 2 micrograms of polluted materials can lead to reduction of cubic brain matter by 0.32%.

This study was the first one who linked brain damage and air pollution and showed the harmful effects the air pollution can have in every human being. There were other studies before who tried to link air pollution and brain development in children, but nobody conducted a research to see impact of air pollution on adults’ brain.

Wilker said: “Long-term exposure to air pollution showed harmful effects on the brain in this study, even at low levels, particularly with older people and even those who are relatively healthy” Wilker contends. She goes on to say, “We found that people who live in areas where there are higher levels of air pollution had smaller total cerebral brain volume and were more likely to have evidence of covert brain infarcts.”

Must Watch – Air Pollution Sources and Effects

Decrease in brain size leads to poor cognitive functions, which reduce the thinking ability and memory problems. People with smaller brains have increased risk of suffering from the silent stroke, up to 46%.


Contributor : Dr. Ahmed Zayed ()

This Article Has Been Published on April 28, 2015 and Last Modified on September 27, 2018

Dr. Ahmed Zayed Helmy holds a baccalaureate of Medicine and Surgery. He has completed his degree in 2011 at the University of Alexandria, Egypt. Dr. Ahmed believes in providing knowledgeable information to readers. Other than his passion for writing, currently he is working as a Plastic surgeon and is doing his masters at Ain Shams University. You can connect with him on Linkedin.

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