Cause fine dust: Brain damage from dirty air

Cause fine dust: Brain damage from dirty air

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Fine dust promotes shrinking of the brain
It has long been known that fine dust is a health hazard and, for example, Can cause cancer or a heart attack. In addition to this, the small particles can obviously also seriously damage the brain. This is currently reported by a US research team.

An average of around 47,000 deaths due to dust pollution
The so-called "fine dust" always causes serious discussions. The reason: the tiny particles pose a health hazard, e.g. by damage the respiratory tract, exacerbate lung diseases such as asthma or smoking lung, or even cause a heart attack or stroke. In this country alone, according to the Federal Environment Agency, an average of around 47,000 deaths would result from exposure to fine dust.

Subjects show recognizable changes in brain structures
In addition to the known consequences, the dust could, under certain circumstances, have another insidious effect. Because, as researchers from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the Boston University School of Medicine found, the particles could apparently also damage the brain. The scientists came to this result in a study in which they had examined the brain volume of the participants using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

It was shown that the brain structures of the test subjects who lived on main roads showed noticeable changes in that the brain volume was on average lower and there were "hidden" or symptom-free brain infarctions. A cerebral infarction is the most common variant of stroke, which occurs due to a sudden undersupply of the brain with oxygen and / or nutrients and is therefore also referred to as "ischemic" or "white" stroke.

Dirty air increases breast stroke risk by 46%
The researchers found that the more exposed the particulate matter to the brain, the older it appeared. Accordingly, subjects who lived in an area with around two micrograms of particulate matter per cubic meter of air had a 46% increased risk of “silent” stroke. "This is worrying because we know that silent infarcts increase the risk of open stroke, developing dementia, running problems and depression," said Prof. Sudha Seshadri of the Boston University School of Medicine in a statement by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical centers.

Road traffic as the main source of dust
However, the question of how air pollution affects brain aging is still open, the report said. Because fine dust comes from various sources such as Emissions from motor vehicles, power and district heating plants or stoves and heaters in residential buildings. In addition to this, it can also be of natural origin, e.g. as a result of soil erosion. In large cities, however, road traffic is the main source of dust, whereby the dust not only gets from (diesel) engines, but also from brake and tire abrasion and turbulence from the road into the air.

Accordingly, further studies should now follow, Prof. Sudha Seshadri continues. "We are now planning to monitor the effects of air pollution over a longer period of time, as well as their effect on sensitive MRI measurements, brain shrinkage over time, and other risks that include stroke and dementia." (Nr)

Image: Joerg Trampert /

Author and source information

Video: Toxic air pollution nanoparticles discovered in the human brain - Professor Barbara Maher explains.


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