Long-term exposure to fine particle air pollution may cause subtle structural changes in the brain that could precede cognitive impairment and hidden brain damage, according to research in the American Heart Association journal Stroke.
Fine particle air pollution – smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter (PM2.5) – may be the most common and hazardous type of air pollution. It comes from burning wood or coal, car exhaust and other sources.
“Long-term exposure to air pollution showed harmful effects on the brain in this study, even at low levels, particularly with older people and even those who are relatively healthy,” said Elissa H. Wilker, Sc.D., study lead author and researcher in the Cardiovascular Epidemiology Research Unit at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.