Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Extremely superfine air pollutants reach brain through a novel route

Executive Summary

More and more data is showing that air pollution is damaging health through routes or pathways not known previously.

Studies show that highly magnetic and toxic particles are reaching brain through olfactory nerve that helps us smell things. This can lead to neuro–degenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

This damage happens through particles that are smaller than the sizes that can be filtered by almost all air purifiers in the world. The damage takes place even at very low pollution concentrations. In effect, you need near–perfect pollution removal, as well as superfine particle removal.

And, the air pollution–related brain damage takes a long time to be noticed. So, worrying about pollution only to protect against asthma, allergies, and lung disease is missing the main effects, which are brain and heart related conditions.

As time progresses, we are getting more and more insight into the modern day medical problem of air pollution. New research shows that superfine air pollutants are entering our brains, and potentially leading to Alzheimer’s disease — a kind of dementia or a medical type of memory loss.

We are generally aware that air pollution involves various chemicals as well as dust particles. The latter pass through our nose and lungs. Depending on the size of particles, they enter our blood stream and reach all the body parts.

PM2.5

It has been found that particles smaller than 2.5 µm, or micrometers, are capable of entering our bloodstream and causing various medical conditions, such as heart disease, stroke, and thyroid problems. Such particles are called PM2.5, or particulate matter of 2.5 µm or smaller.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has a committee called International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). This agency has declared PM2.5 as a grade 1 carcinogen. ‘Grade 1 carcinogen’ means there is sufficient evidence of cancer–causing ability of PM2.5.

Luckily, most indoor air purifiers are able to remove the PM2.5 pollutants from air. Some of the more advanced and higher quality (read, expensive) air purifiers are able to clean 10 times smaller particles than PM2.5. They are able to clean up to 0.3 µm.

The best air purifier are even able to clean particles down to 100 nm or 0.1 µm in diameter. These particles are 25 times smaller than the largest PM2.5 particles.

Superfine particles cause Alzheimer’s disease?

Now, an article in 2016 in the journal Scientific Reports said that the researchers have found particles smaller than 100 nm or 0.1 µm in the amyloid–ß plaques of the brain. These plaques are signs of Alzheimer’s disease, a memory loss disorder of the brain.

Such small particles need very advanced transmission electron microscope to study.

Superfine particles bypass normal lung–blood route

A 2017 article in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has shown that very small nanoparticles are found in abundance in the brain.

These are unique particles called magnetite. The shape and morphology of the particles showed that they are produced by combustion or friction–derived heating. So, these particles came from vehicular traffic or urban commercial activities.

They affect the brain because they have a unique combination of something called redox (reduction–oxidation reaction) activity, surface charge, and strongly magnetic behaviour.

These particles are smaller than 200 nm, or 0.2 µm. Many are as small as 5 nm, or 0.005 µm. This is 500 times smaller than the PM2.5 particle size. They are 20 times smaller than what some of the most expensive air purifiers can remove.

Due to their superfine size, they do not need to enter the brain through the traditional route of nose, lungs, blood, and then brain.

The scientists found out these particles enter through the nose and reach the brain through the olfactory nerve. This nerve carries the sensation of smell to your brain.

Reactive oxygen species and neuro–degeneration

This is important because such nanoscale magnetite particles can respond to external magnetic fields. They can be toxic to the brain because they produce something called reactive oxygen species, or ROS, which is very damaging.

Increased ROS has been shown to increase neuro–degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. ROS also affects a technical aspect called gene expression, which has severe implications for most of the body systems.

Traditionally, people consider air pollution as a problem worsening asthma, allergies and other lung disorders. By inference, unless you face these problems, you not need to worry about air pollution.

However, there is more and more evidence now that the real damage is at brain and heart disease level. And, unlike an allergy attack, such damage takes a long time to show up in symptoms.

Perhaps, that is too late to act, since modern science still does not know how to reverse brain conditions, such as Alzheimer’s.

Read more, in simple English in Time magazine: Toxic air pollution can penetrate the brain. The article also mentions that very low level of air pollution is also damaging to health.

In conclusion

More and more data is showing that air pollution is damaging health through routes or pathways not known previously.

Studies show that highly magnetic and toxic particles are reaching brain through olfactory nerve that helps us smell things. This can lead to neuro–degenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

This damage happens through particles that are smaller than the sizes that can be filtered by almost all of the best air purifiers in the world. The damage takes place even at very low pollution concentrations. In effect, you need near–perfect pollution removal, as well as superfine particle removal.

And, the air pollution–related brain damage takes a long time to be noticed. So, worrying about pollution only to protect against asthma, allergies, and lung disease is missing the main effects, which are brain and heart related conditions.

First published on: 31st July, 2019

Image by skeeze from Pixabay

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