Air Pollution Kills, Rapidly and Surely

December 16, 2019

References: Science DailyNEJMScienceNewsScience DirectBrainNew York Times,

You can't see it. You may not be able to smell it. But those tiny particles put out by fires, factories, busses are there in the air. The NEJM study quoted here is a massive study looking at 652 cities over 30 years. On average, an increase in 10 micrograms per million particles over two days results in a 0.44% increase in mortality, almost immediately. "Our data show independent associations between short-term exposure to PM10 and PM2.5 and daily all-cause, cardiovascular, and respiratory mortality in more than 600 cities across the globe." Ouch! 
What I found somewhat startling and counterintuitive, there was actually a higher mortality for places that are cleaner but then have a short-term burst in pollution. Places like where you live, and you thought were clean. At least, most of the time. 
The authors claim that the smaller the particle, the further it can penetrate into the lungs. All that is true. But what about the brain? 
There are particles that we can now measure that are smaller, and we measure in billionths per meter. And they get into your brain! By performing cognitive studies in children with controls from unpolluted cities, including dogs in both places who subsequently have their brains examined under microscopic and MRI exams, pollution gets into your brain and results in measurable immediate damage. A similar study in Brain shows that for each quartile increase in 2.5 particles you get a 19% decline in recent memory performance in elderly women. 
This is a very interesting confluence of research. The cutting-edge research on CIRS (Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome) is that your brain is damaged by the toxins than make CIRS (Mostly molds). And we know that the MARCONS bacteria release two proteins that continue to lower MSH, the hormone that mediates many of the eccentric symptoms of CIRS. MARCONS is in your nose and the toxins thereby emitted are proximate to your brain. Just like the tiny particles in air pollution. Neither mold toxins nor air pollution particles are visible, but their effect is very real. The tiny particles of air pollution probably penetrate deep into your lung and also get into your circulation setting off innate immune responses, similar to mold.

WWW: What will work for me? Well, I've become much more conscientious about changing my air filters on my furnace and keeping the HEPA filter in our home cleaned up with new filters. And I'm thinking about where I go on vacation. Do we go to exotic cities that are filled with pollution? Do we make choices about where we live based on the cleanliness of the air? Do we vote based on who makes it a priority?

Pop Quiz

  1. Excess cardiac mortality takes years to develop from the extra fumes of diesel busses and diesel cars? T or F. Answer: Patently false. For every 1/2 percent increase in microparticles, there is a statistically significant increase in mortality almost immediately.
  2. Microparticles cause their damage how? Answer: The smallest ones can penetrate very deeply into your lungs and likely get into your circulation, setting off immune responses over your whole body. That would be one working hypothesis that would explain the epidemiology.
  3. You can smell the pollution that makes microparticles? Answer: False
  4. Children living in high pollution cities perform just as well on standardized testing? T or F. Answer: False
  5. Elderly women in polluted cities show what with micro pollution? Answer: Increase cognitive decline.

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