Can traffic fumes go to your head? Ultra-fine particles of metal in exhaust gases fly up our noses and travel into our brains, where they contribute to diseases associated with the central nervous system, and the more congested the city, the bigger the problem.
Iron nanoparticles were already known to be present in the brain — but they were thought to come from the iron naturally found in our bodies, derived from food.
Now a closer look at their structure suggests the particles mostly come from air pollution sources, like traffic fumes and coal burning. The findings are a smoking gun, says Barbara Maher of Lancaster University in the UK.
Environmental pollution including carbon particles emitted by car exhaust, smoking and long term inhalation of dust of various origins have been recognised as risk factors causing chronic inflammation of the lungs. The link between smoking and autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis has also been established. Diseases associated with inhaled nanoparticles include asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, lung cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.