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Freeway air pollution linked to brain damage in mice

FREEWAY It is well known that air pollution from cars and trucks on Southern California freeways -- a combination of soot, pavement dust and other toxic substances -- can cause respiratory disease, heart attacks, cancer and premature death.

Now, exposure to pollution particles roughly one-thousandth the width of a human hair has been linked to brain damage in mice, including signs associated with memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease, according to a USC study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

In a statement, senior author Caleb Finch, an expert on the effects of inflammation and holder of USC's ARCO/William F. Kieschnick Chair in the Neurobiology of Aging, said “You can’t see them, but they are inhaled and have an effect on brain neurons that raises the possibility of long-term brain health consequences of freeway air.”

The study relied on a unique technology developed at USC for collecting particulates in a liquid suspension and recreating air laden with freeway particulate matter in the laboratory, which enabled scientists to conduct controlled experiments on cultured brain cells and live animals.

Exposure lasted a total of 150 hours, spread over 10 weeks, in three sessions per week lasting five hours each.

How can we protect the millions of people who live alongside freeways from this type of toxicity?

In an interview, lead author Todd Morgan, a research professor in gerontology at USC, said, “Our data would suggest that freeway pollution could have a profound effect on the development of neurons and brain health in children and young kids, especially those who attend schools built alongside freeways.”

“So limiting one’s exposure -- especially children’s exposure -- to freeway pollution is essential to control asthma, cardiovascular conditions and cognitive development,” Morgan said.

The study was prompted by earlier research by a separate group in Mexico that noted significant differences in brain samples collected from children and young-adult accident victims in smog-laden Mexico City compared with those in Veracruz, which has cleaner air.

The brain tissue collected in Mexico City showed more extensive inflammation, oxidized DNA and other pathological markers of Alzheimer’s disease, Morgan said.

“As a society, we need to figure out ways to minimize the level of the very, very nasty particulates we are dumping into the air we breathe,” Morgan said. “It’s having terrible consequences.”

Freeway air pollution: court upholds monitoring rules

Los Angeles officials to vote on pollution trading

-- Louis Sahagun

Photo: The 405 Freeway. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times   

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This is a very bad news. Knowing that air is very polluted, it is very possible that we will suffer damage. The health and environment commission should give responses to this problem.

Good job LA Times for taking on this issue.

In any case, the damaging dust is going to be stirred up by just about any vehicle.

Regarding harmful fumes constantly spewed about, one solution is the electric vehicle. Despite claims to the contrary, EVs are much cleaner in urban, concentrated situations such as crowded lanes and highways.

EVs for instance emit Zero fumes when stopped. That alone would cut the air pollution in crowded conditions a significant amount.

EVsRock!, pollution is bad? Um...yeah, thanks for sharing that. Now please all the poor mice alone.

Then the mice must stop driving. For heaven's sake - it's not good for them Just ask them to be reasonable.

Maybe the mice should keep off the freeway

It's just another consequence of The Incredible Rat Race...
Are we men or mice?

Seriously, Johnny. Reminds me of the onion. "Lab Tests Show Multiple Stab Wounds Drop Life Expectancy To Zero" Thanks, "scientists"!

If it is already well known that air pollution from vehicles can cause respiratory disease, heart attacks, cancer and premature death, why do we spend time and money + subject live animals to horrific lab tests only to confirm that pollution is really unhealthy? So now what? A solution anyone? ...(crickets)

"justlooking1" said it best: "who is FUNDING this ridiculous crap? I want a grant to study the effects of long-term exposure to idiots in the Senate who fund stupid studies...".

SQUEEK SQUEEK. at least my brain's better than politicians in Washington DC!

Another great study showing the results of PM. These results cannot be ignored. Thank you LA Times for releasing the findings.
Ben J. Falzon, They tell me that people from all walks of life in Tasmania, Australia, have had enough of forestry's deliberate, dirty, stinking, unnecessary, harmful, smoke and are taking action to clean up the air and most of them aren't even Green voters, just concerned for their health and that of their family.
Being a clean air activist surely is one of the highest things we can aim for in life. I hold these people in the highest esteme.
Soon the smoke will stop because it doesn't fit in with modern health studies. Public pressure is starting to show and I would encourage everyone to voice their concerns because it is too late when you get these diseases.
The Tasmanian EPA says Forestry releases many, many, more times the amount of particles into the airsheds than all the other pollution sources put together, and this includes vehicles.
Oh and yes, Michael the mouse, you too have to breathe this toxic muck, so look out!

More people live in cities.
America is the freeway city nation.
Air quality will have an inverse relationhip to health and intelligence.
As probably does socio-economic status.

In America, there seems to be a general decline in intelligence and understanding.
Increase in denial and intolerance.
A failure to adapt to changing times.
May be thats why America is the most heavily armed, paranoid nation.
The culture is becoming too pathologically stupid to get out of its own progress trap.

The real concern for all the Los Angeles residents reading this article is the truth hurts! You are living in a toxic soup!! Get back to nature.

just shows the hypocracy of the greens, and other enviromental groups .these activists are mainly from the city as in victoria, they're hell bent in dictating to us the country people what we have to do such as shutting down our coal fired power stations in the latrobe valley ,even if it destroyed many thousands of lifves, by making 99%of the people jobless and to absolutley no effect at all to the enviroment,while in their own cities the air is heavely poluted with exauhst fumes but they are that addicted to it they just can't notice it , maybe thats their problem their brains have been severley damaged by those fumes ,

then the mice should stop driving on the freeway - perhaps consider work closer to home...

Another useless research. Pollution or no pollution some get Alzheimer some do not. Researchers have to find the real cause of Alzheimer.

Yes, and the same applies for fumes and particles from plastic....especially when travelling in (new) cars. That "new car smell" is deadly.

Ok, how many mice do you see on the I-95 corridor? How much do we really care? And most importantly, who is FUNDING this ridiculous crap? I want a grant to study the effects of long-term exposure to idiots in the Senate who fund stupid studies about the effects of water under their finger nails. THIS IS WHY OUR GOVERNMENT IS ON IT'S WAY TO SHUTTING DOWN!!

The incidence of autism is now approximately 1 case per 110 births. This statistic includes boys and girls. The incidence is greater in boys and the rate is approximately 1 case of autism per 70 male births. Between 2002 and 2006 there was a 57% increase in autism incidence. Evolution is a continuous process; humans are continuing to evolve in an increasingly polluted environment. Autistic people may represent the next stage in human evolution as we continue to procreate in an atmosphere saturated with man-made toxins, including car exhaust, pesticides and other pollutants. Yes, there is no scientific "proof" that pollution causes autism, but common sense requires that we open our eyes and see the danger that is right in front of us.

Than they should definately stay OFF the freeways!

This is all you got? Nuff Said!

Lived in Hollywood most of the '90's- about a quarter mile from the 101 I guess- my lace curtains would get filthy dirty in a couple of months. The walkway outside, when hosed off would be slimy again two weeks later- just mostly from smog obviously.

Why do we keep putting our heads in the sand over this?
(pssst. Petrol sales...)

is the high powered thrill ride so precious? Especially when you sit on a freeway idling a great big motor?

I hate the smog test by the way, because it's outdated and prejudiced against the poor. But it was a real stupid motor trend about 15 years ago, when americans turned back toward larger SUV's and large trucks again. we spurred on "larger" all over the world and drove up the demand for oil. NASCAR has only made things worse.

The more power we keep and the higher speeds are otherwise, the more it just inhibits a switch to sane vehicles. And have you noticed that we'd all probably get where we're going faster if everyone drove a steady but lesser speed and didn't back things up by crashing?

In other news, dissecting the brains of mice shown to cause brain damage in mice.

This reported research on toxic effects of freeway particulates is consistent with other prior research which also documented adverse health impacts. If anyone is particularly interested in particulate levels in their specific situation, inexpensive laser monitors that measure 1/2 micron and 2.5 micron particulate levels are available. Using such a monitor, I've noted that huge levels of particles tend to swirl around and remain constantly airborne in the vicinity of freeways and busy streets. There is plenty of particulate matter in the air even on quieter streets, but not as much. One inexpensive way to improve indoor air is to buy a cheap 20" square box fan and run it with an ultrafine allergen rated 20" HVAC filter taped to the back side of the fan. The fan draws the dirty air thru the filter. A HEPA rated 0.3 micron filter can be run also, separately. Combined, these two filters running do very significantly reduce the levels of particulates measured by the laser air monitor, including tremendous reduction in dangerous ultrafine particulates. Doesn't do anything for the outside air, but at least the indoor air is cleaner. You can verify the level of improvement by running your own laser air monitor before and after running the filters and comparing the particle counts. It is not uncommon for the two filters to remove 90% or more of the particulate load.

what we need to know is how many of these particulates would be eliminated by a move to EVs? clean diesels? zero-emissions vehicles?

certainly not brake and pavement dust, but would others? it's difficult to formulate any policy ideas until you know what the options are and how they will help...

Thank you LA Times for telling us something we already knew and offering no new information that is of any practical use.

Does freeway pollution mainly impact people who live immediately beside freeways, or within a certain distance - 1 mile, 10 miles, 50 miles? Are there any strategies for reducing exposure if you happen to live within the danger zone (home air filters or special windows)?

This article even goes so far as to pose the question, "How can we protect the millions of people who live alongside freeways from this type of toxicity?" before failing to answer it.

Hey dude.....Brain mice from air pollution?Where did yours come from?You guy's are really,taken this Evironmental thing way too far.....When there are Electrical Companies causing Hatred Spred Illness.from inside their homes,from their union,from you!!

Retrofitting freeways over time as linear parks and pollution free public transit and bicycle corridors...

NOISE POLLUTION surely harms our mental health and thinking processes whether air pollution does or not

the constant distractions of modern life- roaring motors, barking dogs, blasting trains, loud sirens, booming music and the rising philosphies of intentional distraction all destroy our trains of thought

and STRESS US OUT- creating more conflict and aggression, straining physiological boundary, and stressing mental health

and would more create a profile reflective of mental disorders if it was all constantly monitored on a machine. Psychologists and sociolologists should be screaming about it all, but must play muted political correctness just to stay in business.

Heretic! How can anyone criticize the benefits of too many fools, living too far from their work, and spending 2-4 hours, 5 days a week, spewing toxins? Thank Heaven the Republicans have a Plan! Whoops....they're NO different than 'our' Dems! (ALL the working class should get Alzheimers = makes them more 'docile' and both Parties wouldn't need to spend soooo much of their Corporate/Union Free Speech campaign loot....which they TAKE WITH THEM INTO RETIREMENT as a lobbyist.)


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