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

Changes in Measuring Air Quality in California

by Emily Segal

Particulate Matter (PM) is an air pollutant that when large enough can be seen as soot or smoke, and when small enough, can only be observed using an electron microscope. Particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter (PM2.5) are especially dangerous because they can be inhaled into the respiratory system and can lodge in the lungs. Scientists have been studying the quantity of particulate matter in the air for a while, but between 1988 and 2013, the system for monitoring this air pollutant underwent many changes. Essentially, the old way of measuring PM2.5, through traditional filter sampling, was replaced by the more effective method of using Beta Attenuation Monitors (BAM). It is important to have a monitoring network that operates frequently and in many areas because this data can then be compared to data from various hospitals in order to draw conclusions about the connections between PM2.5 concentrations and health consequences. Additionally, the real-time nature of BAM can help make short-term forecasts for air qualities in different regions. This was not possible previously because traditional filter sampling had many delays caused by transporting, conditioning, and weighting filters before any conclusions about the actual PM2.5 measurement could be made. Continue reading