Sustainable Energy

Alzheimer's link? Study finds air pollution particles in human brain

Anmar Frangoul | Special to
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Microscopic magnetic particles from air pollution have been discovered in human brains, according to a study published on Monday.

Analysis of brain tissue from 37 people – aged between three and 92 and from Mexico City and Manchester – was undertaken, with researchers finding "abundant" magnetite nanoparticles, according to a news release from Lancaster University, whose researchers led the project.

The findings are significant because researchers believe the magnetic particles they found could potentially be a cause of Alzheimer's disease. Magnetite – which is toxic – has been linked to the production of free radicals in the brains of humans, the university said, which are in turn linked with diseases such as Alzheimer's.

"The particles we found are strikingly similar to the magnetite nanospheres that are abundant in the airborne pollution found in urban settings, especially next to busy roads, and which are formed by combustion or frictional heating from vehicle engines or brakes," Barbara Maher, from the Lancaster Environment Center, said in a statement.

"Our results indicate that magnetite nanoparticles in the atmosphere can enter the human brain, where they might pose a risk to human health, including conditions such as Alzheimer's disease," Maher went on to add.

The findings of the study, which involved researchers