How air pollution affects our nervous system, part 2.

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How air pollution affects our nervous system, part 2.


Environmental Pollution

Environmental pollution is an ever-growing problem. The biggest threat to humans are the pollutants that are present in the air we breathe in every day. Harmful substances that enter the atmosphere as a result of the combustion process have a significant impact on human health in terms of the emergence of many diseases, including chronic ones. In addition to respiratory or cardiovascular diseases, very dangerous changes are also observed in the nervous system.`


Impact of air pollution on human health

The fact that air pollutants have a significant impact on human health is due to exposure (daily) to a certain amount of them in the inhaled air. Depending on the length of exposure and on the concentration of pollutants in the air, effects, both short-term and long-term, can be inferred. It is also important to note that certain groups - people who are more sensitive - may feel the effects of elevated concentrations of pollutants in the air more and more quickly. We are talking about people such as children, people with diabetes, respiratory diseases, cardiovascular diseases or elderly or obese people, in whom too high levels of pollution can cause certain immediate nipples. Moreover, the inhalation of polluted air does not necessarily manifest itself immediately; its effects can be deferred over time, compounded by a daily dose of 'new' pollutants in the body. Prolonged exposure (even to low concentrations) is likely to result in chronic diseases - cardiovascular or respiratory diseases - with increasing numbers of medical visits, hospitalisations, emergency room interventions and even deaths [1].

Air pollution and the human nervous system

Although the first association in the context of air pollution is respiratory diseases, they affect the entire human body, including the nervous system. In Poland, the effects of air pollutants on the central nervous system are virtually completely unknown.

The conclusions that can be drawn are based on research conducted to date in Poland, the United States, Mexico, China, Korea and Canada.

On the basis of a study conducted in Krakow since 2000 in a project led by Professor Wiesław Jędrychowski of the Jagiellonian University's Collegium Medicum, where several hundred women from the second and third trimesters of pregnancy and their children were examined, the following conclusions were drawn: the greater the mother's exposure to particulate matter and PAHs during pregnancy, the lower the child's birth weight, the smaller the child's height, the reduced lung capacity and the smaller the circumference of the child's head. Consequently, this translates into poorer intellectual development of the child, as well as poorer performance of the child's immune system in older age. The authors of the study therefore point to the ability of harmful substances to penetrate the placental-vascular barrier. Another conclusion of the authors of the study is the effect of maternal inhaled substances on the intellectual development of the child - as signalled by the results of the study, children more exposed to harmful substances during pregnancy perform worse compared to their peers who were exposed to lower concentrations [3].

photo: panthermedia

Another study with a similar theme was that conducted in New York (a research group from Columbia University led by Prof Perera, who collaborated with Prof Jędrychowski), which showed a significant and meaningful association between PAH exposure during pregnancy and cognitive performance, which was lower in children exposed to higher levels. The higher the PAHs, the higher the children's anxiety levels, more frequent depressive states, and problems with maintaining attention and concentration at appropriate levels. It was also associated with developmental delay at age 3, as well as reduced levels of intelligence [3].