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Car Exhaust & Alzheimer’s — Thank You, Mickey Mouse

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New research from Australian and Singaporean scientists have found a link between car exhaust and Alzheimer’s. It was even on the mainstream news last night. This opens up a whole new argument in favour of the uptake of electric vehicles and the removal of fossil fuels. It has long been accepted that particles in the pollution caused by burning fossil fuels contribute to health issues and global warming, but somehow people have been able to ignore these issues and still protest that the benefits of cheap energy from fossil fuels outweigh the risks. My expectation is that this new research will shock more people into action. There is nothing more personal than watching a loved one slip away into the fog of dementia.

The electrification of everything is better for our health.

In a new study from the University of Technology Sydney, healthy mice are being exposed to very fine particles of iron, magnetite, and diesel hydrocarbons. Over four months they developed "Alzheimer’s disease pathologies." The mice became more stressed and anxious, symptoms consistent with Alzheimer’s disease.

Magnetite is a tiny particle (smaller than the aids virus) found in air pollution caused by high temperature combustion. It is small enough to pass through the blood brain barrier. Researchers at the University of Technology in Sydney (UTS) have asserted that magnetite can induce signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Internal combustion engines (ICE) and coal fired power stations have been found to produce magnetite particles. They are also found in the dust from brake and engine wear. Magnetite particles (or nano spheres) have been found in the brains of cadavers from the UK and Mexico.

Burning fossil fuels linked to Alzheimer’s

Associate Professor Gunawan, from the Australian Institute for Microbiology and Infection (AIMI), says: "Fewer than 1% of Alzheimer’s cases are inherited, so it is likely that the environment and lifestyle play a key role in the development of the disease."

"Previous studies have indicated that people who live in areas with high levels of air pollution are at greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Magnetite, a magnetic iron oxide compound, has also been found in greater amounts in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. However, this is the first study to look at whether the presence of magnetite particles in the brain can indeed lead to signs of Alzheimer’s," she said.

Associate Professor McGrath from the University of Technology Sydney School of Life Sciences adds: "Magnetite is a quite common air pollutant. It comes from high-temperature combustion processes like vehicle exhaust, wood fires and coal-fired power stations as well as from brake pad friction and engine wear. When we inhale air pollutant, these particles of magnetite can enter the brain via the lining of the nasal passage, and from the olfactory bulb, a small structure on the bottom of the brain responsible for processing smells, bypassing the blood-brain barrier."

Magnetite created an immune response in the mice, leading to inflammation and cell degeneration. "The magnetite-induced neurodegeneration is also independent of the disease state, with signs of Alzheimer’s seen in the brains of healthy mice," said Dr Charlotte Fleming, a co-first author from the UTS School of Life Sciences.

A Google search revealed that there has been a growing body of research into the connection between air pollution from car exhaust and the dementia epidemic. Professors Maher and Allsop from the University of Lancaster dissected the brains of cadavers from both Mexico and Lancaster, UK. In the preamble to their 2016 study, Barbara Maher, Professor of Environmental Science at Lancaster University, and David Allsop, Professor of Neuroscience at Lancaster University, assert: "Very small, round particles made out of magnetite (called magnetite nanospheres) are abundant in city air pollution. They are formed at high temperatures and condense as iron-rich droplets as they cool. These particles range in diameter from less than 5nm (nanometres) to more than 100nm (for comparison an HIV is 120nm in diameter) and are often found together with pollution particles made out of other metals."

They found that magnetite particles are directly associated with the formation of "senile plaques." These senile plaques are clumps of abnormal protein found between nerve cells. Magnetite nanospheres enhance the toxicity of the protein in the centre of each "senile plaque."

They "used magnetic, electron microscopic and other techniques to examine brain samples from 37 cadavers — aged three to 92 years at time of death — who had lived in Mexico City or in Manchester, UK." They examined the brains of people under the age of 40 who had been exposed to high levels of air pollution in Mexico City and compared them with older Manchester cases who had moderate to severe Alzheimer’s. The samples from both groups were highly magnetic.

They observed: "Most of the magnetite particles in the brain samples were spherical and different in size and shape from the magnetite particles that naturally occur in people and animals. They ranged in diameter from 5nm to 150nm and were found together with nanoparticles containing other metals, such as platinum, nickel and cobalt, which would not occur naturally in the brain. We also extracted the magnetite particles from the brains using an enzyme. The enzyme dissolved the brain tissue and left the magnetite particles intact. These particles were then extracted using a magnet. The particles were a striking match for the magnetite nano spheres found in air pollution."

This research makes questionable the siting of jogging and biking tracks beside highways. Not a place to be breathing deeply. And it also raises problems with the practice of leaving the engine running in the school pickup zone!

Here we have yet further and damming evidence of the harm caused by burning fossil fuels. How will the vested interests counter it? Perhaps by saying that electric vehicles produce more magnetite than ICE vehicles? That EVs are heavier and so have to use more brake pads? Who knows. Let’s hope sense prevails and the world sees how we are destroying the minds of those we love with this devastating pollution.

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David Waterworth

David Waterworth is a retired teacher who divides his time between looking after his grandchildren and trying to make sure they have a planet to live on. He is long on Tesla [NASDAQ:TSLA].

David Waterworth has 738 posts and counting. See all posts by David Waterworth

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  • Interesting. One of the great conveniences of EVs is the ability to warm up in the garage in the winter (central WI) without toxic exhaust fumes. I know not everyone has this option but it's almost universal where I live to have a garage and the ability to home charge.

      • Not only in the garage. I don't have a garage, but it is far more enjoyable to step into a warm car.
        It is great to prewarm the EV without spewing CARBON GARBAGE before my longer trips.

          • About 80% of our electriciy and 95% of our heat comes from burning natural gas.

            So I suppose it's better to heat just the car.

              • The other benefit to pre-heating the car is that the battery is warmed up also on very cold days, thus extending range a bit.

                My electricity is 90% clean, and I just switched to primary heat pump use. My combi-boiler is still supplying tap hot water, and I hope to switch to "at location" electric water heating.

                  • When plugged in and charging from 120 volt, preheating our Long Range Y will use about 5% of the battery.

                    We'll go electric for heat when there's new nuclear or hydro. For now, we usually get extreme cold, low or no wind power, overcast, and grid emergency all at the same time.

                    So we'll go 100% low temp hydronic, maybe with cogeneration, and keep the garage just warm enough to charge the cars (+5 Degees C)

              • It has been linked directly to Alzheimers and dementia in humans in Swedish studies as well also showing that the traffic in minor cities in Sweden is enough to cause this. Not only being a big city problem.

                  • There is enough other studies that link pollution and health.

                    But, this one is presented here like final evidence which is not the case. author of this article, who was a teacher should be careful about such things. Those omissions are not advancing our knowledge and they are giving fuel to detractors. shame

                      • Anytime I see info on Alzheimer’s, I get pissed off. About 20 years ago, give or take, A CURE for Alzheimer’s was in phase I testing human trials. My mom died from the disease. The cure had three doses and eliminated the disease. Full memory recovery, for the most part. The lead doctor was from Texas. I saw a whole documentary on it, a PBS station I believe. One of the enzymes in Mothers milk played a key role in its composition. The problem was that there was a 1 in 100 chance it would cause encephalitis in the patient (Brain swelling), with potential death.
                        SO, the cure trials were canceled and the doctor was persuaded to seek a treatment solution instead of a cure, and a Pharmaceutical company bought up his patents on a supposed failed cure. 20 years ago.... I know this because I was so pissed at the time, I went out on the USPTO website for about 2 hours with all the keywords fresh in my mind, and found all the details regarding the patent purchases.

                        I wonder how many people today, or any day, who were slipping into oblivion, had an offer of 99 in 100 chance of being totally cured as opposed to an horrible slightly longer away death, would say no.

                        We don't have cures today because there is WAY, WAY more profit in treatments. Profit over everything.
                        Screw those who have to die....

                          • Sadly I have to agree with you - it it all about profits, that would be why FF is still so much used, same reason why would a drug dealer or cartel want to give up all that $$$! (insert different drugs, legal, illegal etc as you need)

                              • If I recall correctly several studies of different therapies has run into the brain swelling problem and it was much worse than 1% risk.

                              • So this seems to be a good reason to regulate brake dust which should force maximum regenerative braking except for emergencies, thus accelerating EVs and hybrids with bigger batteries than Toyota nano-hybrids.

                                  • healthy mice are being exposed to very fine particles of iron, magnetite, and diesel hydrocarbons.

                                    Have they redone the test without the diesel hydrocarbons? If the particles still end up in the brain and still impact congnitve performance then Yes the particles are a problem. But if not then it is something else in diesel exhaust.

                                    There are many many different types of hydrocarbons in exhaust and many of those could also cause damage to the brain. A few years ago I read that hydrogen cyanide emmisisiions from diesels is sometimes quite high. being an acidic gas it can damages lungs and the blood. It is also poison and could damage mary parts of the body.

                                    Also keep in mind many years ago researchers found aluminum in patients. But later after a lot research it was found that aluminum was not the of the disease.

                                      • Right, the emissions from internal combustion engines go far beyond carbon. They also damage human health.

                                          • Yes, it seems that the many natural and artificial sources of actually Toxic Things get forgotten when all is Carbon.

                                            Maybe its bad for the Real Estate business to male people aware that some places will shorten your life if you visit.

                                            • EVs use regenerative braking and use much less brakepad material than and ICE vehicle.

                                                • Yes. In time as driverless capability improves and connected vehicles become more widespread. The use of braking in EV's should become insignificant.

                                                    • Nothing trains all drivers to spare the brake pads, like a half inch of black ice.

                                                      And after it's sanded, Tesla needs a driver-operated control to reduce regen so I don't have to use my $2,000 tires as friction pads.

                                                      Maybe a 'deep freeze' setting that's below 'Chill'.

                                                      • This is one more stake in the heart of the vampire of Fossil Fuels. The more we know. Thanks for the very informative read.

                                                          • Peace Man
                                                            2 days ago

                                                            Thanks for spotlighting this issue.
                                                            There are so much problems with burning DINOSAUR JUICE that go beyond just the Climate Crisis that we are facing.

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