Science and modern biochemistry have all kinds of answers on the brain and human health, but scientific knowledge alone can’t stop air pollution. Those studies can make citizens aware of how compromised we are. They can let us know that air pollution is indeed a threat to the brain’s and body’s core functions. But humans must act on this knowledge to make it truly useful.
Previous studies have shown the minuscule but widespread bits of air pollution do get into the brain, even affecting fetal development. A new study has determined air pollution can cause or worsen brain tumors, brain cancer.
To understand the study, “Within-City Spatial Variations in Ambient Ultrafine Particle Concentrations and Incident Brain Tumors in Adults,” first understand ambient ultrafine particles (UFPs, <0.1 µm), those tiny particulates coming from the exhaust of internal combustion engines after they burn gas.. The authors say, “to our knowledge epidemiologic studies have yet to evaluate the relationship between UFPs and incident brain tumors.”
In a gas car culture, everyone is exposed. Rich people cannot buy their way out of the problem. However, risk is indeed higher for less affluent populations in more polluted areas. The study took into account the areas of worse exposure due to proximity to busier highways.
Apart from gas cars, one must consider the wide spectrum of carcinogenic factors of modern life. Each carcinogenic influence builds on another. Exhaust from internal combustion cars is a huge addition to the risk, though. Vulnerability also plays into each pathology. Carcinogens hit a point of vulnerability and find a home.
I notice a certain visceral repulsion when riding in a gas car, since I’ve been fortunate enough to drive all electric for several years. It seems akin to the repulsion someone who finally conquered cigarette smoking feels when smelling smoke. Yet, we are still immersed in the fumes, especially urbanites, regardless of our own personal transit choices. It seems none of us are free till all of us are free. It is especially disheartening for those who live car free — those lightest footprint pedestrians and bicyclists, many young working urbanities, are exposed — sometimes fatally — to others’ pollution.
An earlier CleanTechnica article emphasized how our bodies are viscerally penetrated by fossil fuels, “fossil sunlight,” as Jeff Bridges described as the narrator of a wonderful film — sunlight hitting the earth is used for photosynthesis and then makes its way into animals’ bodies. Some of it goes into the earth as plants and animals die and are buried by the elements. “Our bodies were a product of the current sunlight of the day (in centuries past).” Bridges talks about the change from using pure sunlight to using fossil sunlight. “We’re mining this ancient sunlight from a very brief period of human history.”
“What kind of future do you want to see, and what are you willing to do to bring that about?”@TheJeffBridges discusses his doc “Living in the Future’s Past” (@LITFPfilm) + the climate change that inspired it on the cover of FLOOD 10
✍ by @DeanKuipershttps://t.co/ZQuzhICbSz
— FLOOD Magazine (@floodmagazine) June 20, 2019
The director, Susan Kucera of the recent documentary notes how we have shifted from the well-being of direct sunlight and fresh goods to today’s reality. She brought Dr. Nathan Hagens, Director of the Institute for the Study of Energy and Our Future, to the documentary as he explained how we are now:
“A chemical composition of 50% of the protein in our bodies. 80% nitrogen in our bodies indirectly comes from the chemical signature of this fossil sunlight that we are mining. So we are different than our ancestors. They were made of sunlight, we are made of fossil fuels.”
Add those ambient ultrafine particles to the mix and you are soon studying the cause of cancer, as well as many other degenerative diseases. Back to the first-of-its-kind study from the journal Epidemiology, here are some key highlights:
- The study’s methods were conducted within-city spatial variations in ambient UFPs across Montreal and Toronto, Canada. 1.9 million adults were included in multiple cycles of the Canadian Census Health and Environment Cohorts (1991, 1996, 2001, and 2006).
- UFP exposures (3-year moving averages) were assigned to residential locations. The study reports that exposures were also updated to account for residential mobility within and between cities. The study was of malignant brain tumors between 2001 and 2016.
- Results: In total, we identified 1400 incident brain tumors during the follow-up period.
- Conclusions: Ambient UFPs may represent a previously unrecognized risk factor for incident brain tumors in adults. Future studies should aim to replicate these results given the high prevalence of UFP exposures in urban areas.
Protecting the air in our urban areas is primary to fighting health problems such as this. Electric mass transit, car-free city centers, taxing gas cars, and offering increased EV infrastructure for zero-emission vehicles are necessary today. This is especially important for our young, who often have to live and work in the city.
Damian Carrington for The Guardian quotes Scott Weichenthal, at McGill University in Canada, who led the study: “So when you multiply these small risks by lots of people, all of sudden there can be lots of cases. In a large city, it could be a meaningful number, particularly given the fact that these tumors are often fatal.” The British media site adds: “Prof Barbara Maher, at the University of Lancaster, UK, said iron-rich nanoparticles from traffic pollution were likely to be carcinogenic and were therefore a plausible possible cause of brain cancer. She said nanoparticles were not regulated and were rarely even measured.”
We need to move on, need to stop polluting our world with fossil sunlight. The evidence has been clear enough for along time.
Look under the hood of humanity. pic.twitter.com/ps6oZQC5YK
— Jeff Bridges (@TheJeffBridges) June 10, 2019