Clinical effects of air pollution on the central nervous system; a review

J Clin Neurosci. 2017 Sep;43:16-24. doi: 10.1016/j.jocn.2017.04.028. Epub 2017 May 18.


The purpose of this review is to describe recent clinical and epidemiological studies examining the adverse effects of urban air pollution on the central nervous system (CNS). Air pollution and particulate matter (PM) are associated with neuroinflammation and reactive oxygen species (ROS). These processes affect multiple CNS pathways. The conceptual framework of this review focuses on adverse effects of air pollution with respect to neurocognition, white matter disease, stroke, and carotid artery disease. Both children and older individuals exposed to air pollution exhibit signs of cognitive dysfunction. However, evidence on middle-aged cohorts is lacking. White matter injury secondary to air pollution exposure is a putative mechanism for neurocognitive decline. Air pollution is associated with exacerbations of neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. Increases in stroke incidences and mortalities are seen in the setting of air pollution exposure and CNS pathology is robust. Large populations living in highly polluted environments are at risk. This review aims to outline current knowledge of air pollution exposure effects on neurological health.

Keywords: Air pollution; Carotid artery disease; Cognitive dysfunction; PM; Stroke; White matter disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollution / adverse effects*
  • Central Nervous System / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / etiology
  • Particulate Matter / toxicity*


  • Particulate Matter