Pollution In Our Brains

Samantha Zeitz

There have been many reports of pollution causing various health problems, but now a study confirms pollution particles can be found in the human brain.

A study led by Lancaster University researchers discovered traces of magnetite nanoparticles in human brains. Magnetite is a mineral that contains iron and has magnetic forces.

As reported by the Environmental News Network, magnetite could impact the brain because of its redox activity, surface charge and magnetic force. There are however magnetite particles that have been found to form naturally in the human brain. Researchers were able to tell the difference by examining the shape and size of particles they found. Scientists say magnetite that forms naturally has a crystal-like shape and is normally very small. The particles that were observed in the study were round and were as big as 150nm. The characteristics show the particles were formed in high temperature and can be created by vehicle engines and open fires.

In this study, the researchers examined the brain of 37 different people, ages three to 92 from Mexico City and Manchester.

While comparing the different particles, scientists discovered far more pollution-linked particles. There were almost 100 times more artificial particles compared to the naturally occurring magnetite. This didn’t come as a surprise as roadside air analysis found as many as 200 million magnetite particles per cubic meter.

Experts suggest there could be a link between this kind of pollution and Alzheimer’s disease. Some studies show air pollution can increase the chances of developing the illness. It has not yet been proven that the particles directly cause the disease but medical researchers are concerned. Scientists continue to examine the impact of pollution particles on Alzheimer’s, as well as other neurodegenerative diseases.

Scientists have also found other metal particles in the brain. Traces of platinum, cobalt and nickel are believed to have appeared due to car exhaust. The theory is that these particles are able to build up because of the way the body inhales them. By entering through the nose the pollution can bypass the blood-brain barrier. Once passed through the nasal cavity there is a direct path to the brain.