Breathing Polluted Air Can Disrupt Immune System
Negative health effects from the chronic inhalation of polluted air are well known to cause cardio-respiratory disease. It can be particularly damaging to seniors, children, and people with asthma. Now according to a study from Ohio State University, breathing polluted air can also cause widespread inflammation by triggering the release of white blood cells from bone marrow into the blood stream. The influx of white blood cells can alter the integrity of the blood vessels. The white blood cells are then absorbed into fat tissues where chemicals are released that cause inflammation.
The main culprit in the air that causes this to occur is fine particulate matter, or PM. How exactly the PM triggers this cascade of cellular activity remains unclear. Scientists hypothesize that the damage may originate in the fluid lining of the lungs. When molecules in this fluid are exposed to PM, their structures change, activating the toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4). TLR4 recognizes the specific characteristics of pathogens and activates the immune system, the white blood cells in particular.
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