While the damaging effects of air pollution on the heart and lungs has been shown in previous studies, a new study suggests that the harmful impact extends beyond that. Long-term exposure to air pollution can lead to physical changes in the brain, as well as learning and memory problems and even depression.
Laura Fonken and colleagues in Ohio State’s Department of Neuroscience collaborated with researchers in the university’s Davis Heart and Lung Research Institute for the new research.
“The results suggest prolonged exposure to polluted air can have visible, negative effects on the brain, which can lead to a variety of health problems,” Fonken said.
In other studies, some of the co-authors of this study from the Davis research center discovered that long-term exposure to polluted air causes widespread inflammation in the body, which is linked to a number of health problems in humans, including depression. The recent study found evidence that this low-grade inflammation is evident in the hippocampus.
“The more we learn about the health effects of prolonged exposure to air pollution, the more reasons there are to be concerned,” said Randy Nelson, co-author of the study and professor of neuroscience and psychology at Ohio State.
“This study adds more evidence of pollution’s negative effects on health.”