Pathophysiological Effects of Particulate Matter Air Pollution on the Central Nervous System

by Thy Annie Nguyen

Human activities have severely impacted air quality. Whereas cardiovascular disease and respiratory conditions have been the main concern in assessing the adverse effects of air pollution, neurological impacts are recently being studied and are equally important. Wright and Ding (2016) review the many adverse effects of particulate matter (PM) exposure and the implications of increased air pollution in highly urbanized communities. From short-term insults to long-term diseases, it was found that PM from air pollution was a direct cause of a myriad neurological diseases as well as increasing mortality and cardiovascular morbidity. PM air pollution consists of “metals, dust, various organic compounds, and microorganisms suspended within aerosolized droplets.” When inhaled, ultrafine PM is small enough to cross blood and mucous barriers, travelling to the brain and other parts of the central nervous system. As ultrafine PM enters these sites, they may directly cause insults on neurological systems through inflammation, inhibiting blood flow, decreased brain volume, increases oxidative stress, and much more. For example, long-term exposure to ultrafine PM has been shown to lead to vascular conditions such as hypertension and atherosclerosis. In addition, blockages in blood vessel in the brain have been strongly associated with increased likelihoods of stroke. Continue reading