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The Not-So-Subtle Dangers of Air Pollution

Newswise - Bad news about pollution: Rates of Alzheimer's today arethree times what they were in men 20 years ago and haverisen 90% in women, and some scientists think this is due toan increase in pesticide use, industrial waste and carexhaust. Air pollution from car exhaust has been found tothicken the blood, causing heart attacks and strokes. Also,this kind of pollution hits infants especially hard. A newstudy shows that fossil fuel combustion from cars and powerplants is causing nitrogen pollution in U.S. waters,especially when there are highways nearby.

In the Observer, Juliette Jowit interviews Colin Pritchard,who is "really scared" about the increase in dementia. Hisreport shows that genetic causes can be ruled out when itcomes to diseases like Alzheimer's, because changes to theDNA would take hundreds of years to take effect. That meansthe increase must be caused by something in the environment.

It?s already known that particulate air pollution, the kindthat comes from power plants, leads to strokes and heartattacks, but no one knew exactly why. Now scientists havediscovered that the reason is that air pollution thickensthe blood, making it harder for the heart to pump.Researchers have found that particulates?the tiny particlesin some types of air pollution?actually alter cell functionso that it promotes thickening or coagulation of the blood.

A new study of 60 newborns in New York City reveals thatexposure of expectant mothers to combustion-related urbanair pollution may alter the structure of babies' chromosomeswhile in the womb, leading to future diseases. The airpollutants considered in this study include emissions fromcars, trucks, bus engines, residential heating, powergeneration and cigarette smoke. These pollutants can crossthe placenta and reach the fetus.

Researcher Kenneth Olden says, "This is the first study toshow that environmental exposures to specific combustionpollutants during pregnancy can result in chromosomalabnormalities in fetal tissues."

Environmental scientist Dr. Frederica Perera says, "Althoughthe study was conducted in Manhattan neighborhoods, exhaustpollutants are prevalent in all urban areas, and thereforethe study results are relevant to populations in other urbanareas."

Photo credit: http://www.freeimages.co.uk

More mysteries are being solved every day, but there areplenty thathaven'tbeen solved yet.

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