Association between air pollution and Multiple Sclerosis: A systematic review

Environ Res. 2021 May:196:110386. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2020.110386. Epub 2020 Oct 28.


Air pollution is a major public health threat. The present study is the first systematic review (SR) to determine the association of exposure to air pollution and Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Progression. A Literature search was carried out using relevant keywords within several international databases. A comprehensive literature search was carried out systematically and yielded 24 eligible studies concerning the relationship of exposure to air pollution including criteria air pollutants such as particulate matter, NOx and SOx, CO2, traffic noise, etc. and MS disease. The results of the included studies reveal that there was a significant relationship between exposure to air pollution and MS development and progression. Although the effect of air pollution in the pathogenesis of MS is notfully known, according to the results of the included studies exposure to polluted air can stimulate several mechanisms that act as risk factors for developing MS and for having disease relapses or neurological disability. The major potential mechanism is Dysimmune inflammatory responses subsequent oxidative stress (OS), which leads to neuroinflammation and breakdown of the normal balance between immunity and self-tolerance. Air pollutants induce and sustain chemical reactions that produce reactive oxygen species (ROSs) and nitrogen reactive species (RNSs) which can initiate inflammatory cascades via the redox-sensitive mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) and NF-κB that recruit and activate neutrophils, monocytes, and dendritic cells that stimulate the adaptive immune responses such as Th1 and Th17 inflammatory responses. The uncontrolled inflammatory responses following these events cause cell death and the release of self-antigens capable of stimulating the production of auto-aggressive T-cells via enhancing antigen presentation and facilitate entry of these cells to the central nervous system. Thus, oxidative stress is the culprit in the systemic inflammation and immune imbalance development and progression, powerful risk factors in MS.

Keywords: Air pollution; Demyelinating disease; Multiple Sclerosis; Noise pollution; Oxidative stress; Particulate matter.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants* / analysis
  • Air Pollutants* / toxicity
  • Air Pollution* / adverse effects
  • Air Pollution* / analysis
  • Central Nervous System
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis
  • Humans
  • Multiple Sclerosis* / epidemiology
  • Multiple Sclerosis* / etiology
  • Particulate Matter / analysis
  • Particulate Matter / toxicity


  • Air Pollutants
  • Particulate Matter