A recent study of Mexico City’s air pollution found that, because of all the gross stuff in the air, 55 middle class children there were developing brain lesions like those found in patients with dementia. Considering the well documented decline in air quality since Expo ended, what does this study mean for us here in Shanghai?
The study, done by toxologist Lilian Calderón-Garcidueñas, is one of the most long-term examinations on air pollution’s affects on the brain. While it’s long been known to hurt the lungs and cause heart problems, it’s ability to mess with our thoughts is still being measured.
Calderón-Garcidueñas found that the bad air was causing inflamation of the brain, and seemingly healthy Mexico City children were being found with brain deposits of amyloid-beta and alpha-synuclein, proteins that “serve as hallmarks of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases,” according to Science News.As a result, kids in Mexico City were exhibiting cognitive impairments in memory, problem solving and judgment compared with children from a cleaner city 120km away.
This study, along with a growing body of evidence, is showing that nerves in the nose can “provide a highway” for some inflammatory pollutants to go straight to the brain. That’s bad news for us considering the following stats from Shanghai Daily:
The density of particulate matter in the past two months grew by 32 percent and the amount of nitrogen dioxide in the air grew by 12.3 percent over the same period of last year.
This is believed to be due, in part, to local construction sites and hay burning restarting after the World Expo ended on October 31 and less frequent road cleaning and washing after the event had closed its doors.
Dust brought by sandstorms in northern areas, pollutants coming in with the recent cold front and local pollution are the major causes tarnishing the air.
Officials from the Shanghai Environmental Protection Bureau say they are considering stricter measures to control dust from construction sites. But we wouldn’t hold our breaths (or maybe we should) waiting for them to come anytime soon. Until these better air quality standards appear, there doesn’t seem to be much you can do – we recommend keeping your house well ventilated (and cleaning the filters for your air conditioner), taking as many trips as possible into greener parts of the city and being thankful that at least we aren’t Beijing; their air pollution was even worse than Mexico City’s.