We have known for a long time that exhaust fumes affect our health in many bad ways. It may lead to respiratory problems, cancer, heart disease and even death. However new studies have shown it can even affect the brain as well. Two different studies show that exhaust fumes can affect the brain in both good and bad ways.
The Bad Effects of Exhaust:
Jui-Chiuan Chen, a medical epidemiologist at the University of Southern California, conducted a study of over 7,500 female brains to test the effects of car exhaust fumes on the brain. These women spanned over 22 states in several different environments.
The study showed after only 30 minutes of breathing in the fumes, there were electrical signals triggered that control behavior, personality and decision-making. They also showed changes that are often compared to stress. The studies were conducted at street level and showed the effects of the normal pedestrian walking.
Other studies have shown that children living in areas with high levels of traffic and exhaust, such as New York and Boston. The same study also showed the children were more prone to depression, anxiety and attention problems than children growing up in less congested areas.
The data is still new and many researchers are continuing to study the effects of exhaust on the human brain, but at the moment the risks seem alarming. In the meantime it is suggested to limit your time in high exhaust areas at times where traffic is dense. Currently the effects of over-exposure to exhaust are untested, but are currently being studied closely.
The Good Effects of Exhaust:
On the other side of the spectrum, and the world, Israeli researcher Itzhak Schnell suggests that small amounts of car exhaust actually reduces stress in those living in the city. As professor at the Tel Aviv University, Schnell claims small doses of exhaust could cause a calming effect, much like a narcotic, that helps city residents handle the fast paced lifestyle of living in the city.
Schell and his team studied 36 young and perfectly healthy students, ranging from ages 20-40, by attaching sensors that monitored them throughout their day. As the students lived their normal lives, the scientists were studying the data coming in, attempting to see which city stressor affected them the most. Out of noise levels, air pollution, crowds and weather, they were surprised to see that the major stressor was not environmental, but rather noise from other people around them.
They were even more shocked to find that their students were calmed during times where they were exposed to exhaust fumes. The small doses were affectively relieving the stress caused by the crowds near them. Schnell and his team are planning to continue the study by monitoring higher risk subjects such as babies, elderly people and those with respiratory conditions such as asthma.
Though it is not suggested to begin huffing exhaust fumes, there may be a benefit to those city dwellers that are living the hustle and bustle life. Between the two studies, we can only conclude that exhaust fumes affect the brain, either with damage, or euphoria.