TechHousehold chemicals linked to brain cell damage, study finds

Household chemicals linked to brain cell damage, study finds

Scientists warn against common chemicals
Scientists warn against common chemicals
Images source: © Pexles | Anna Shvets

5:22 PM EDT, March 27, 2024

Scientists from Case Western Reserve University in the USA have raised concerns about the harmful effects of common household chemicals on brain cells called oligodendrocytes. The damage to these cells has been associated with various diseases, including multiple sclerosis and autism. Their findings, published in the esteemed journal "Nature Neuroscience," highlight the potential risks of having these chemicals in our living spaces.

The researchers point out that although genetics play a role in the onset of these diseases, environmental factors, particularly exposure to specific harmful substances, are significant contributors. They identified certain chemicals that can cause damage to oligodendrocytes, the cells responsible for producing the protective sheath around neurons.

Everyday chemicals pose a risk to brain health

Professor Paul Tesar, who led the study, states: "The deterioration of oligodendrocytes lies at the heart of multiple sclerosis and other neurological conditions. We have unearthed specific chemicals in daily-use products that can directly harm these cells, unveiling a hitherto unknown risk factor for neurological ailments."

During their investigation, the team analyzed over 1,800 substances that humans might encounter. They found that some chemicals, such as organophosphates used in flame retardants for furniture and electronics, could prevent oligodendrocytes from maturing properly. Similarly, quaternary ammonium compounds, often found in disinfectants, could destroy these cells.

Erin Cohn, the study's lead author, observed: "Oligodendrocytes—unlike other cell types—are extraordinarily vulnerable to quaternary ammonium compounds and organophosphate flame retardants. Understanding how humans are exposed to these chemicals could be key in identifying a missing link in the rising incidence of neurological disorders."

The researchers stress the importance of further studies to clarify how these substances affect brain health. They advise monitoring the levels of these compounds in both adults and children and examining their influence on disease susceptibility.

Adding to this, Professor Tesar notes: "Our findings suggest that in-depth research into the effects of these widespread household chemicals on the brain is imperative. We hope our work will inform better regulatory decisions and encourage practices that reduce exposure and safeguard health."

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