A study conducted by USC Professor and senior author Caleb Finch found that freeway pollution resulted in significant neuron damage for mice.
This was the first study to explore the physical effect of freeway pollution on brain cells.
In the study mice were exposed to a synthetic combination of floating freeway matter. The mice were exposed for up to 15 hours per week, which is similar to the experience of L.A. commuters, who may spend up to three hours per day on the freeway.
The results were the same for neurons in test tubes as in the live mice: brain cells showed damage to learning and memory, signs of premature aging and stunted cell growth.
“ You can’ t see them, but they are inhaled and have an effect on brain neurons that raises the possibility of long-term brain health consequences of freeway air,” Finch told the Los Angeles Times.
The pollutive particles may be invisible, but the health risk is still readily apparent to USC students.
“When I came to L.A. from NorCal I immediately noticed the difference in air quality,” said Alicia Anguiano, a junior majoring in political science and history. “Sometimes going north on the 110 towards downtown I can’ t even see the skyline — it’ s covered in smog. And I just think, it can’ t be healthy for kids to grow up in this environment.”
Solutions to the problem are hard to find, according to Finch, because even if we decrease the local concentration of these particles, we live in a larger environment that contributes to the pollution anyway.