A pioneering study conducted in Mexico compared the mental abilities of 73 children – 55 from heavily polluted Mexico City, and 18 from the much less polluted city of Polotitlan. They found not only that the children from Mexico City performed much worse on cognitive tests, but also when a sample of the children from polluted areas were given brain scans, the results showed signs of lesions (scarring) at the front of their brains. Similar lesions were also found in dogs from Mexico City whose brains were examined for the same experiment.
Researchers believe that the high levels of particulate pollution in Mexico City could cause a prolonged state of brain inflammation, affecting the frontal and prefrontal cortexes – crucial for cognition and working memory. The study was published shortly before the European Commission launched legal proceedings against Britain and nine other EU member states for failing to reduce their hotspot levels of particulate pollution to legal levels.
Meanwhile, a study by Brunel University and the Universities of Exeter and Reading has discovered a new link between water pollution and declining male fertility.
Previous studies suggest the presence of female hormone mimics (oestrogens) in drinking water could adversely affect male fertility. The new study, however, classified a new group of chemicals that could inhibit the function of testosterone in men and even lead to testicular dysgensis. Known as antiandrogens, the chemicals could come from a wide variety of sources, the researchers said.
‘Our findings… strengthen the argument for the cocktail of chemicals in our water leading to hormone-disruption in fish, and contributing to the rise in male reproductive problems,’ said senior author Professor Charles Tyler of the University of Exeter. ‘There are likely to be many reasons behind the rise in male fertility problems in humans, but these findings could reveal one, previously unknown, factor.’
The study was released a week before University of California researchers found a link between exposure to perfluorinated chemicals used in packaging chemicals and difficulties in women becoming pregnant. Critics warn further research is needed to discover if the chemicals are the main cause.