New research indicates that exposure to diesel exhaust may cause long-term damage to brain function. The study, conducted by Particle & Fibre Toxicology, tracked the effects of the nanoparticles found in diesel exhaust.
Earlier studies have demonstrated that the nanoparticles were capable of traveling to subjects’ brains after being inhaled. This was the first research to analyze how these particles affected brain function.
Researchers put 10 volunteers in a room filled with a level of diesel exhaust on par with a busy city road. EEGs recorded the participants’ brain wave functions, which revealed a “significant increase in MPF (median power frequency) in response to DE (dilute diesel exhaust) in the frontal cortex within 30 minutes into exposure.”
Although more research is needed to pinpoint how this stress would manifest itself, or which functions of the brain could be impaired, early indications are that brain damage can be added to respiratory and cardiovascular disease on the list of automobile exhaust-caused illnesses.
"It is conceivable that the long-term effects of exposure to traffic nanoparticles may interfere with normal brain function and information processing," said lead researcher Paul Borm from Zuyd University.
While many of the automobile-related negatives – like obesity, anger, increased risk of injury or death, and expense – mostly affect car owners and drivers, exhaust pollution and the health effects and greenhouse gas crisis it contributes to is a global problem. The congestion pricing structures recently instituted in London and soon to face a vote in New York are starting to look like real boons to city-dwellers.
Photo via flickr by yhancik.