Air pollution makes me crazy

It’s hard to tell whether I’m crazy or not.

A few new studies have come to my attention. They all indicate that I should get the fuck out of this basin of smog as soon as I can.

The problem is called PM2.5—particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometers in size. New research has shown that breathing this shit for a long period of time causes physical changes to the hippocampus, specifically shortened dendrites of decreased complexity. This is associated with impaired learning and memory; one of the hippocampus’ main jobs is moving new information from short-term memory to long-term storage.

The reason that PM2.5, or “fine particulate matter”, is of concern is that it is small enough to cross the air-blood barrier in the brain and travel to various tissues.

But the study was done on mice. What about humans?

Turns out, the study was prompted by findings by Mexican scientists. They examined the brains of accident victims—children and young adults—from Mexico City (which has terrible air pollution) and Veracruz (which has relatively cleaner air). They found that the brains from Mexico city “showed more extensive inflammation, oxidized DNA and other pathological markers of Alzheimer’s disease.”

All right. But what about long-term effects?

A 2010 study involving 680 men linked black carbon emissions (a marker of traffic-related air pollution) with impaired cognitive function. Even when their scores were adjusted to compensate for social and educational differences, the men who lived in areas with heavier air pollution performed worse on cognitive tests than those who didn’t.

I’ve written before about how important brain health is to me. I consider my brain to be me. And it’s not even just me, but my universe. It’s the mechanism I use to see and understand the world, and it’s my library of all my experiences and memories. Few things are more important to me.

I now have to carefully consider the real implications of this information. The correlation and causation seem to be there—but how much would I really be affected? Am I willing to be affected at all? How much have I already been affected?

The real question is: am I being obsessive about this? Is it irrational that I want to get out of here within a few years because of this, in spite of the fact that I otherwise love living here?

One thing this new information has really fucked up is my bike rides. I used to take 20-mile rides a few times a week. I’m not so sure that’s a good idea anymore.

I can just add this to the list of 218 other very important things I need to work out very quickly.


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