Children living in cities are at an increased risk of developing brain inflammation and neuro-degenerative changes, including Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, owing to air pollution.
Researchers at the University of Montana found that when air particulate matter and their components such as metals are inhaled or swallowed, they pass through damaged barriers – including respiratory, gastro-intestinal and blood-brain barriers – and can result in long-lasting harmful effects.
Lead researcher Dr. Lilian Calderon-Garciduenas’ findings are detailed in apaper titled “Air pollution and children: Neural and tight-junction anti-bodies and combustion metals, the role of barrier breakdown and brain immunity in neuro-degeneration”.
The team compared 58 serum and cerebrospinal fluid samples from a control group living in a low-pollution city and matched them by age, gender, socioeconomic status, education and education levels achieved by their parents to 81 children living in Mexico City.
“We found that children living in Mexico City had significantly higher serum and cerebrospinal fluid levels of auto-antibodies against key tight-juction and neural proteins, as well as combustion metals,” Calderon-Garciduenas said.
“We asked why a clinically healthy kid is making auto-antibodies against their own brain components?” Calderon-Garciduenas noted.
That is indicative of damage to barriers that keep antigens away from the brain.
The results of constant exposure to air pollution and damage to all barriers eventually result in significant consequences later in life.
The paper appeared in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.