Ultrafine-particle air pollution from freeways causes brain damage in mice, a new study shows. The study has profound implications for air quality management in schools near freeways.
The study was published in the current issue of the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. The research was conducted at the University of Southern California (USC).
A senior author of the study said that although the tiny pollution particles are too small to be seen, “they are inhaled and have an effect on brain neurons that raises the possibility of long-term brain health consequences of freeway air.”
Among the effects found by the study:
• Neurons involved in learning and memory showed significant damage.
• The brain showed signs of inflammation associated with premature aging and Alzheimer’s disease.
• Neurons from developing mice did not grow as well.
Lead author Todd Morgan, a research professor in gerontology at USC, told the Los Angeles Times: “Our data would suggest that freeway pollution could have a profound effect on the development of neurons and brain health in children and young kids, especially those who attend schools built alongside freeways.
“So limiting one’s exposure — especially children’s exposure — to freeway pollution is essential to control asthma, cardiovascular conditions and cognitive development,” Morgan said.