DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, Oct. 29, 2019 -- World Federation of Neurology -- Breakthrough studies indicate that the impact of air pollution and rising incidents of stroke, Parkinson's and other neurological diseases are potentially linked. The environmental impact of climate change could, in fact, be a brain health emergency, the effects of which are a major focus of the XXIV World Congress of Neurology (WCN 2019) in Dubai, UAE, October 27-31, 2019.

"The public image of environmental pollution is that of an industrial complex with tall chimneys sputtering dark clouds of black smoke," said Dr Gustavo Román, MD, DrHC, of Houston Methodist. "Although that image is largely accurate as a major factor in global warming it minimizes for the public the role of other less obvious forms of environmental pollution and contamination that affect the nervous system, and the brain in particular."

People worldwide are exposed to "invisible" pollutants and neurotoxins in the atmospheric air, food and water, that are capable of affecting the nervous system. One of the most significant findings from research on environmental neurology is that exposure to small particles from air pollution and occupational can affect the brain negatively, potentially even related to the development of Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.

Some of the common mechanisms of action of pollutants and toxins include inflammation, oxidative stress and neurodegeneration. In children, this may result in delays in cognitive development, and may also have a link to autism.

In fact, a study authored by Román and colleagues found that the odds of being a probable autistic child increased four-fold when the mother had severe hypothyroxinemia—which can be caused by neuroendocrine disruptors from environmental chemicals like pesticides—during early gestation.

"Strong and strict governmental control of industrial pollutants and car emissions is required more than ever to protect the health of the populations and their children," said Dr Gustavo Román, MD, DrHC, of Houston Methodist. "Until the role of environmental pollutants is confirmed beyond doubt, no definitive preventive measures to control pollution will be forthcoming from countries and governments."

Environmental Neurology is a specialty research field dedicated to understanding how external factors could impact human health. According to Jacques Reis MD, AEA, Environmental Neurology Specialty Research Group, WFN, and professor convetionne of the University of Strasbourg, there is a need for a holistic, multifaceted and translational approach that will yield a better and comprehensive understanding of the environment's influence on the nervous system and diseases.

"There are several conditions that threaten the planet—climate change, biodiversity decrease, air pollution—and they need to be addressed for the good of the planet and the health of the people who live on it," said Prof. Reis.

A report released by the World Health Organization listed air pollution and climate change as the number one threat in 2019. While researchers understand that quantifying the effects on global mechanisms in real-time is a distinct challenge, early research suggests that the link to climate change and brain health cannot be denied.

WCN 2019 will be attended by 4,000 of the most elite neurologists and specialists from 126 countries. For more breaking news on brain health and climate change, please follow #WCN2019 on social media.


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About the World Federation of Neurology

The World Federation of Neurology represents 120 member neurological societies around the globe to foster quality neurology and brain health worldwide by promoting neurological education and training with an emphasis on under-resourced areas of the world. WFN supports the spread of accurate research and clinical information in the pursuit of improvements in the field of neurology. With support from member organizations around the globe, WFN unites the world to allow patients greater access to brain health.

For more information, please visit the WCN 2019 web site at, find our live stream press conferences on Facebook at, on Twitter at or by searching using the tag #WCN2019.


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