Air pollution could increase the risk of neurological disorders: Here are five Frontiers articles you won’t want to miss this Earth Day


At Frontiers, we bring some of the world’s best research to a global audience. But with tens of thousands of articles published each year, it’s impossible to cover all of them. Now, with Earth Day approaching on 22nd April, we take a look at just five recent papers that shine a light on why we must do everything to help protect our planet.

Bad air might do more than make breathing harder

Neurological disorders come in many varieties; they include diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson’s, but also anxiety, depression, and inflammation of nervous tissue. Polluted air is known to negatively impact the respiratory system and heart health, however, there is rising concern that it may also impact the likeliness of developing neurological disorders.

In a recent review article published in Frontiers in Neuroscience, scientists in Canada have examined the complex relationship between air pollution and neurological disorders.

The researchers wrote that the impact of gases, chemicals, and particle matter on the nervous system is characterized by a complex interplay of oxidative stress; inflammation; and neurotoxic effects. For example, oxidative stress, which is the imbalance between molecules that can cause damage to the DNA and antioxidants, can trigger an immune response and damage cellular structures. It plays a key role in the development of diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Article link:

Invasive plants could drive local tree to extinction on Galápagos island in less than 20 years

On islands, invasive species often disrupt and threaten local flora and fauna. Forests, for example, can become fragmented as invasive species find their way in, and may eventually suffer the loss of native species.

Writing in Frontiers in Forests and Global Change, a team of researchers in Ecuador has now investigated the effect of invasive specieson Scalesia pedunculata, a slender tree that once was the dominant habitat-forming species of the unique Scalesia forests found on the Galápagos islands.

In a 10-year field trial on Santa Cruz Island, they showed that in plots where invasive plants were removed, the cover of all endemic species increased significantly from 54 to 86%. In the plots where no control action was taken, native plants significantly decreased from 48 to 17%. This highlights the devastating effect of invasive on local species, the researchers wrote. They warned that if invasive plant species are not controlled, the Scalesia forest could be lost in less than 20 years.

Article link:

40 years of studies show that more than 90% of polar seabirds contain microplastics

Although the Arctic and Antarctica are mostly perceived as pristine, microplastics (MPs) have long found their way into these remote regions.

As more human activities happen there and the changing climate is becoming an ever-greater concern, researchers in Italy have recently reviewed studies from the last 40 years that report on the ingestion of tiny plastic particles by seabirds from polar regions. Monitoring this is crucial to mitigate the impacts of MPs on marine organisms. The results were published in Frontiers in Marine Science.

They wrote that these studies show that at least 13 of more than 100 polar bird species had ingested MPs. Among the Arctic bird samples, 90% had at least one MPs piece in their stomachs, pouch content, or droppings; among the sample of Antarctic birds the prevalence was, at 97%, even higher. On average, birds in the Arctic contained 7.5 MPs per individual, while the seabirds of Antarctica contained 1.1 MPs per individual.

Article link:

Scientists map where in the US bad air quality days could increase the most

Polluted air can affect both our health and quality of life. In the current climate crisis, air quality is expected to deteriorate further, due to, for example, more wildfire smoke, but also ground-level ozone and particulate fine matter, such as dust, dirt, or soot.

In a new Frontiers in Earth Science study, researchers in the US presented a new modeling framework to compute climate-adjusted estimates of air quality hazards. The framework combines statistical models, machine learning, and climate-chemistry models to show estimates of how many bad air quality days from ground-level ozone and particulate fine matter across the contiguous US (CONUS) can be expected both presently and 30 years into the future.

While 63.5% of the 140 million properties in the CONUS experience at least one poor air quality day currently, this figure is expected to grow to 72.1% by midcentury. The model showed that the western states, both now and in 30 years, are likely to experience the most bad air quality days, with the highest projections made for Southern California.

Article link:

Yarn type may determine how many microfibers are released during laundry

Everyone who’s ever emptied the lint compartment in a drier knows clothes shed. These microfibers released during laundry have been identified as a significant source of environmental pollution. The way we wash our clothes – longer or shorter cycles using hotter or colder water – can impact the amount of released microfibers. Yarn type, fabric structure, and fiber composition, however, play a role, too.

In a recent study published in Frontiers in Environmental Science, researchers in the UK investigated how yarn characteristics influence microfiber release from knitted fabrics.

They found that, generally, regenerated, cellulose-based yarns and acrylic yarns released more microfibers than the tested cotton and polyester yarns. Vortex-spun yarns consistently demonstrated lower microfiber release than ring-spun yarns, and ring-spun lyocell released the greatest quantity of microfibers. These results show that changes in fiber composition and yarn spinning system could significantly influence microfiber release, the researchers said.

Article link:

REPUBLISHING GUIDELINES: Open access and sharing research are part of Frontiers’ mission. Unless otherwise noted, you can republish articles posted in the Frontiers news site — as long as you include a link back to the original research. Selling the articles is not allowed.