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Journal of Toxicology
Volume 2012, Article ID 782462, 23 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2012/782462
Review Article

The Adverse Effects of Air Pollution on the Nervous System

1Department of Neuroscience, Health Science Institute, Dokuz Eylul University, Inciralti, 35340 Izmir, Turkey
2Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Bogazici University, 34342 Istanbul, Turkey

Received 30 May 2011; Accepted 15 November 2011

Academic Editor: Cinta Porte

Copyright © 2012 Sermin Genc et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

Exposure to ambient air pollution is a serious and common public health concern associated with growing morbidity and mortality worldwide. In the last decades, the adverse effects of air pollution on the pulmonary and cardiovascular systems have been well established in a series of major epidemiological and observational studies. In the recent past, air pollution has also been associated with diseases of the central nervous system (CNS), including stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and neurodevelopmental disorders. It has been demonstrated that various components of air pollution, such as nanosized particles, can easily translocate to the CNS where they can activate innate immune responses. Furthermore, systemic inflammation arising from the pulmonary or cardiovascular system can affect CNS health. Despite intense studies on the health effects of ambient air pollution, the underlying molecular mechanisms of susceptibility and disease remain largely elusive. However, emerging evidence suggests that air pollution-induced neuroinflammation, oxidative stress, microglial activation, cerebrovascular dysfunction, and alterations in the blood-brain barrier contribute to CNS pathology. A better understanding of the mediators and mechanisms will enable the development of new strategies to protect individuals at risk and to reduce detrimental effects of air pollution on the nervous system and mental health.