I already think driving on a clogged up highway is a health hazard. It was my sanity I was more concerned about – I do not do sitting well and I certainly don’t “sit” in traffic with a positive happy temperament.
When the highway turns into an enormous parking lot – I find myself yelling (yes, like anyone can hear you) and showing rude finger signs at the #$&*#? people who cut in front, so that my agony is prolonged.
But those highway fumes might be stressing out more than my emotions.
Breezing along inhaling freeway air
Researchers from the University of Southern California blew smoke on some mice, to simulate riding on the freeway.
The “smoke” was not the usual exhaust fumes, but a mix of tiny particles created from burning of fossil fuel and weathering of car parts and pavements. The special “smoke” ended up being made
up of very small particles, in the nanometer range, which is roughly one-thousandth the width of a human hair. These particles are so small that they don’t get trapped by car filtration systems.
The mice were “on the road” for a total of 150 hours over a 10 week period. 15 hours a week – which is certainly not excessive in my neck of the woods.
Mice go off course following the simulated road trip
The brains of the “commuting” mice were studied at the end of the 10 week period. Exposure to the highway gunk, left their brains a little worse for wear.
The neurons involved in learning and memory showed significant damage. The brains also showed signs of inflammation, similar to that seen in brain aging and Alzheimer’s.
Odds are, the little guys would have had a little trouble remembering how to get home, following their exposure to the vehicle pollution.
A nanoparticle induced brain fog
So breathing in car smells is not only a potential lung problem, but could be causing a brain fog as well. Suspect you need to really sniff lots of nanoparticles to see the kind of damage produced in these mice, that said, you want to avoid sniffing bad things as far as possible.
I for one would love to abandon the car as the primary means of transport – teleporting sounds fast and clean.
But in the mean time, we’re stuck with cars. It might be prudent to roll up the windows when you’re taking a road trip , or if you’re really worried, slap on one of those surgical masks, to keep the nanoparticle exposure down to the minimum.
And install a GPS, so if your brain does fog over, you will still be able to find your way home.Glutamatergic Neurons in Rodent Models Respond to Nanoscale Particulate Urban Air Pollutants In Vivo and In Vitro. Environmental Health Perspectives (2011) doi:10.1289/ehp.1002973. Todd E. Morgan, David A. Davis, Nahoko Iwata, Jeremy A. Tanner, David Snyder, Zhi Ning, Winnie Kam, Yu-Tien Hsu, Jeremy W. Winkler, Jiu-Chiuan Chen, Nicos A. Petasis, Michel Baudry, Constantinos Sioutas, Caleb E. Finch.
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