How Pollution can affect your Brain

How Pollution can affect your Brain ?


  • Headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Less concentration
  • Diminished mental capacity
  • Brain damage
  • Neurological disorders
  • Poor central nervous system functionality


It is estimated that 9 out of 10 European City- Inhabitants are exposed to harmful pollution levels. The association of air pollution with a number of adverse respiratory and cardiovascular health effects has been well documented.

Long-term exposure is associated with neuroinflammation, an altered innate immune response, disruption of blood brain barrier, particulate deposition and accumulation of Amyloid -42 and -Synuclein in Children and Young Adults (Toxicologic Pathology, 36:289-310, 2008 )

The impact of air pollution upon the brain as first noted as an increase in ischemic stroke frequency found in individuals exposed to indoor coal fumes1. While the data on the association between cerebrovascular disease and ambient air pollution are limited, exposure to diverse air polluants (e.g particulate matter, ozone, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen dioxide) in the ambient air is epidemiologically associated with enhanced risk for ischemic cerebrovascular events2

More recent epidemiological and animal toxicology studies have raised concerns about the potential impact of air pollution on central nervous system outcomes including

  • Brain inflammation
  • Microglia activation
  • White matter abnormalities

Research Findings

The first studies exploring whether air pollution is culpable in neurodegenerative disease were investigated in animal (feral dog) populations naturally exposed to a polluted urban environment. 3 This study clearly establishes the link between high pollution and enhanced oxidative damage, premature presence of diffuse amyloid plaques, and a significant increase in DNA damage in olfactory bulbs, frontal cortex and hippocampus. This work provided the first association between exposure to pollution and acceleration of neurodegenerative disease pathology.

Recently , these findings have been confirmed and extended in humans and additionnal animal models. Analysis of brain tissue from individuals residing in highly polluted areas show increases in CD-68 , CD-163 and HLA-DR positive cells ( indicating infiltrating monocytes or resident microglia activation), elevated pro-inflammatory markers (Interleukin -1β [IL 1-β], cycloxygenase 2 [COX 2]), and increase in Aβ42 deposition (hallmark disease protein of Alzheimer’s disease) , blood-brain barrier (BBB) damage, endothelial cell activation and brain lesions in the prefontal lobe.4

But pollution goes far beyond air pollution with water pollution, noise pollution, food pollution…

SBHI commitment

Be Smart: to promote research on the impact of Pollution on Cognition

  • Identify the best research teams involved in this field
  • Develop and promote the results of these research teams on cognition
  • Find and develop a new, more appropriate, cognitive measurement if needed

Be Effective: always Monitoring and Evaluating the actions

  • Measure the efficacy of what is done
  • Evaluate any new cognitive measurement which could allow a good monitoring and follow up of the cognitive status as a mirror of Brain Health

Be Simple:

  • Inform on the existing data available of the relation between pollution and Brain health
  • Translate the latest research findings into easy-to-understand and practical information with simple tips when appropriate

Be Heard: to promote research on the impact of Pollution on Cognition

  • Identify the best research teams involved in this field
  • Develop and promote the results of these research teams on cognition

What can you do?

When you feel the symptoms described earlier, go and see your physician to talk about it...


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