How Pollution can affect your Brain

Keep your brain in mind
Stay informed and take action - Be involved with SBHI

Less concentration

It is estimated that 9 out of 10 European City-Inhabitants are exposed to harmful pollution levels

Research shows that 400.000 people lived shorter than expected each year due to pollution

How Pollution can affect your Brain ?

What can you do ?
Look at what SBHI suggests


  • Headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Less concentration
  • Diminished mental capacity
  • Brain damage
  • Neurological disorders
  • Poor central nervous system functionality


It is estimated that 9 out of 10 European City- Inhabitants are exposed to harmful pollution levels. The association of air pollution with a number of adverse respiratory and cardiovascular health effects has been well documented.

Long-term exposure is associated with neuroinflammation, an altered innate immune response, disruption of blood brain barrier, particulate deposition and accumulation of Amyloid -42 and -Synuclein in Children and Young Adults (Toxicologic Pathology, 36:289-310, 2008 )

The impact of air pollution upon the brain as first noted as an increase in ischemic stroke frequency found in individuals exposed to indoor coal fumes1. While the data on the association between cerebrovascular disease and ambient air pollution are limited, exposure to diverse air polluants (e.g particulate matter, ozone, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen dioxide) in the ambient air is epidemiologically associated with enhanced risk for ischemic cerebrovascular events2

More recent epidemiological and animal toxicology studies have raised concerns about the potential impact of air pollution on central nervous system outcomes including

  • Brain inflammation
  • Microglia activation
  • White matter abnormalities

Research Findings

The first studies exploring whether air pollution is culpable in neurodegenerative disease were investigated in animal (feral dog) populations naturally exposed to a polluted urban environment. 3 This study clearly establishes the link between high pollution and enhanced oxidative damage, premature presence of diffuse amyloid plaques, and a significant increase in DNA damage in olfactory bulbs, frontal cortex and hippocampus. This work provided the first association between exposure to pollution and acceleration of neurodegenerative disease pathology.

Recently , these findings have been confirmed and extended in humans and additionnal animal models. Analysis of brain tissue from individuals residing in highly polluted areas show increases in CD-68 , CD-163 and HLA-DR positive cells ( indicating infiltrating monocytes or resident microglia activation), elevated pro-inflammatory markers (Interleukin -1β [IL 1-β], cycloxygenase 2 [COX 2]), and increase in Aβ42 deposition (hallmark disease protein of Alzheimer’s disease) , blood-brain barrier (BBB) damage, endothelial cell activation and brain lesions in the prefontal lobe.4

A recent study has been conducted in London in order to investigate whether the incidence of dementia was related to residential levels of air and noise pollution ( Ref Carey IM et al Are noise and air pollution related to the incidence of dementia? A Cohort study in London, England BMJ Open 2018;8:e022404.doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2018-022404 There was a positive exposure response relationship between dementia and all measures of air pollution except 03, which was not readily explained by further adjustment. Adults living in areas with highest fifth of NO2 concentration (>41.5 µg/m3) versus the lowest fifth (<31.9 µg/m3) were at a higher risk of dementia (HR=1.40, 95% CI 1.12 to 1.74). Associations were more consistent for Alzheimer’s disease than vascular dementia.

But pollution goes far beyond air pollution with water pollution, noise pollution, food pollution…

SBHI commitment

Be Smart: to promote research on the impact of Pollution on Cognition

  • Identify the best research teams involved in this field
  • Develop and promote the results of these research teams on cognition
  • Find and develop a new, more appropriate, cognitive measurement if needed

Be Effective: always Monitoring and Evaluating the actions

  • Measure the efficacy of what is done
  • Evaluate any new cognitive measurement which could allow a good monitoring and follow up of the cognitive status as a mirror of Brain Health

Be Simple:

  • Inform on the existing data available of the relation between pollution and Brain health
  • Translate the latest research findings into easy-to-understand and practical information with simple tips when appropriate

Be Heard: to promote research on the impact of Pollution on Cognition

  • Identify the best research teams involved in this field
  • Develop and promote the results of these research teams on cognition

Noise Pollution:

  • Many studies have linked noise pollution to increased anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.
  • The WHO published in 2011 a report « Burden of disease from environmental noise: quantification of healthy life years lost in Europe »
  • The WHO defines health as ‘ a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. This implies that noise-induced annoyance may be considered an adverse effect on health. But in addition stress –related psychological symptoms such as tiredness , stomach discomfort and stress have been found to be associated with noise exposure as well as noise annoyance. It is now time to consider more closely the impact of noise pollution on Brain Health.
  • We need mapping of noise pollution since it can be measure and follow as a stress factor and therefore have a direct impact on Brain health. Its impact should be followed with cognitive test as well as individuals performance measure
    ref Salma JL et al Noise effects on human performance: a meta-analytic synthesis Psychol Bull 2011 Jul; 137(4)v682-707
  • What can you do?

    When you feel the symptoms described earlier, go and see your physician to talk about it...


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