Natural Health News – New research shows that exposure to air pollution It occurs early in life changes in the brain that could make us more vulnerable to schizophrenia and autism.
The study using an animal model and found that, like in autism and schizophrenia, these brain changes occurred predominantly in males. The animals also perform poorly on tests of short-term memory, learning ability and impulsivity.
Although it is based on the animal model, the results are consistent with several recent studies have shown a link between air pollution and autism in children. In particular, a study of 2013 Archives of General Psychiatry reported that children living in areas with high levels of air pollution related to traffic during their first year of life were three times more likely to develop autism .
Another in 2013 from the School of Public Health at Harvard found that women in the US were exposed to high levels of air pollution during pregnancy were up twice as likely to have a child with autism because women living in areas of low pollution. Other studies have also found that this increased level of risk .
“Our findings add to the growing evidence that air pollution may play a role in autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders,” said Deborah Cory-Slechta, Ph.D., professor Environmental Medicine at the University of Rochester and lead author of the study, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives .
The levels of harmful ultrafine particles are not regulated
Most air pollution is mainly composed of carbon particles produced when fuel is burned by power plants, factories and cars. For decades, research on the health effects of air pollution has focused on the body part where the damage is most evident – the lungs. That research began to show that particles of different sizes produce different effects. Larger particles – regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) -. Are actually less harmful because they are coughing and expelled
However, many researchers believe that smaller particles known as ultrafine particles – which are not regulated by the EPA – are more dangerous because they are small enough to travel deep into the lungs and absorbed into the bloodstream, where they can produce toxic effects throughout the body.
This assumption led Cory-Slechta to design a set of experiments showing if the ultrafine particles have a detrimental effect on the brain, and if so, to reveal the mechanism by which inflict damage. Their study published today is the first scientific work to do both.
Three series of experiments, Cory-Slechta mice and their colleagues exposed to levels of air pollution typically found in medium-sized cities United States during rush hour. They were held exhibitions during the first two weeks after birth, a critical time in brain development. Mice were exposed to polluted air for four hours every day for two four-day periods.
In one group of mice, the brains examined 24 hours after the final exposure of pollution. In all these animals, inflammation was widespread throughout the brain and lateral ventricles – chambers on each side of the brain containing the cerebrospinal fluid -. Were extended from two to three times its normal
“When we look closely to the ventricles, we could see that the white substance that normally surrounds them had not been fully developed,” Cory-Slechta said. “It seems that inflammation had damaged brain cells and prevented the brain region develops, and ventricles simply expanded to fill the space.”
Problems also were observed in a second group of mice 40 days after exposure and another group 270 days after exposure, indicating that the brain damage was permanent. The brains of animals in the three groups also had elevated levels of glutamate, a neurotransmitter, which is also seen in humans with autism and schizophrenia.
“I think these findings will raise new questions about whether the current regulatory standards for air quality are sufficient to protect our children,” said Cory-Slechta.