Diesel exhaust inhalation stresses your brain

Mar 11, 2008

If the smell of diesel exhaust isn't enough to make you avoid getting a lungful, new research now shows that even a short exposure to the fumes can affect your brain. A study published in the open access journal Particle and Fibre Toxicology reveals that an hour of sniffing exhaust induces a stress response in the brain's activity.

Previous studies have already suggested that very small particles, called nanoparticles, breathed in from polluted air can end up in the brain. But this is the first time that scientists have demonstrated that inhalation actually alters brain activity.

Ten volunteers spent one hour in a room filled with either clean air or exhaust from a diesel engine. They were wired up to an electroencephalograph (EEG), a machine that records the electrical signals of the brain, and their brain waves were monitored during the exposure period and for one hour after they left the room.

The researchers found that after about 30 minutes the diesel exhaust began to affect brain activity. The EEG data suggested that the brain displayed a stress response, indicative of changed information processing in the brain cortex, which continued to increase even after the subjects had left the exposure chamber.

The concentration of diesel exhaust that the subjects breathed was set to the highest level that people might encounter in the environment or at work, for example on a busy road or in a garage.

Lead researcher Paul Borm from Zuyd University in The Netherlands said: “We believe our findings are due to an effect nanoparticles or ‘soot’ particles that are major component of diesel exhaust. These may penetrate to the brain and affect brain function. We can only speculate what these effects may mean for the chronic exposure to air pollution encountered in busy cities where the levels of such soot particles can be very high.”

One link to understanding the mechanism of this effect is that oxidative stress is one consequence of particles depositing in tissue and oxidative stress has also been implicated in degenerative brain diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease . “It is conceivable that the long-term effects of exposure to traffic nanoparticles may interfere with normal brain function and information processing,” noted Borm. “Further studies are necessary to explore this effect, and to assess the relationship between the amount of exposure to particles and the brain's response and, and investigate the clinical implications of these novel findings.”

Studies that expose volunteers to potential toxins or require invasive techniques are limited for ethical reasons. Borm is currently conducting experiments where volunteers inhale artificially generated nanoparticles that are free from the other chemicals that are generated, along with the nanoparticles in diesel exhaust.

Source: BioMed Central

Explore further: Is UK shale gas extraction posing a risk to public health?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Diesel exhaust associated with lethargy in offspring

Mar 23, 2010

Breathing diesel exhaust during pregnancy is associated with sluggishness in offspring. Researchers writing in BioMed Central's open access journal Particle and Fibre Toxicology studied the effects of pollution exposure in mic ...

Recommended for you

Obama: 8 million signed up for health care (Update)

3 hours ago

President Barack Obama said Thursday 8 million Americans have signed up for health care through new insurance exchanges, besting expectations and offering new hope to Democrats who are defending the law ahead ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Antryg
not rated yet Mar 12, 2008
the ~this was done at the maximal level of pollutant~ type statement is hogwash.

Try working in actual industrial condition, like with a diesel-burner heating your construction-tent/building: you are IN the exhaust/air mixing chamber.

further, instead of *assuming* that it is the nanoparticles, why not TEST to discover if it's the gasses or particles-large or particles-small? ( test both, not just one! )

Not Scientific Enough, perhaps?

And, as has been shown countless times, in countless ways, before. . .

It's oft the combination of somethings that is maximally-damaging, or maximally-stressing.

So unless the pollutant is broken-down & the components tested, then their components tested, and the toxicity of each compared with the toxicity of the total ( does it sum to the result of the whole? ), then it isn't going to be known, ever, if it's one or few components, or if it's combinations, let-alone which ones.

I hope someone has the guts to discover the truth of it, but am not .. holding my breath ...

More news stories

Turning off depression in the brain

Scientists have traced vulnerability to depression-like behaviors in mice to out-of-balance electrical activity inside neurons of the brain's reward circuit and experimentally reversed it – but there's ...

Researchers discover target for treating dengue fever

Two recent papers by a University of Colorado School of Medicine researcher and colleagues may help scientists develop treatments or vaccines for Dengue fever, West Nile virus, Yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis and other ...

Our brains are hardwired for language

A groundbreaking study published in PLOS ONE by Prof. Iris Berent of Northeastern University and researchers at Harvard Medical School shows the brains of individual speakers are sensitive to language univer ...

Study recalculates costs of combination vaccines

One of the most popular vaccine brands for children may not be the most cost-effective choice. And doctors may be overlooking some cost factors when choosing vaccines, driving the market toward what is actually a more expensive ...

Better thermal-imaging lens from waste sulfur

Sulfur left over from refining fossil fuels can be transformed into cheap, lightweight, plastic lenses for infrared devices, including night-vision goggles, a University of Arizona-led international team ...

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...