Air pollution

From Head To Toe

Zoe Yu

Air pollution is causing around 2000 premature deaths annually in Hong Kong. It impacts our bodies from head to toe. Learn about the harms and disease air pollutants inflict on different body parts.

Brain – The Nervous System:

Fine and ultrafine particulate matters (PM) can directly access the central nervous system.

Neurodevelopmental and Neurodegenerative Diseases:
Exposure to high air pollution is suggested as a primary environmental etiological factor in autism and Alzheimer’s diseases. Oxidative stress and neuroinflammation cause developmental disorders (e.g. autism) and neurodegenerative diseases (e.g. Alzheimer’s disease), making children and the elderly especially vulnerable.
Neurodevelopmental problems:
Prenatal exposure to PM2.5 may be associated with corpus callosum volume decrease in children. The consequences might be an increase in behavioral problems.
Air pollution causes cognitive and behavioral disturbances. Research has found that higher prenatal exposure to polllutants generated during incomplete combustion of organic materials corresponded with reductions in white matter of (predominantly) the left hemisphere of the brain in childhood. Since white matter takes up half of our brains, serving as the brain’s information superhighway, shrinking of white matter contributes to slower processing speed and ADHD symptoms.
Epidemiological studies have identified an association between air pollution and dementia. Evidence also shows that exposure to air pollutants is associated with an elevated risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Mental Health Issues:
Air pollution exposure exacerbates existing inflammation in the brain brought about by everyday stressors that contribute to symptoms of mental health issues.