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Tue 11 Mar 2008 12:05 PM

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Choking traffic fumes alter brain functions

Dubai congestion could affect way brain processes information in less than hour, research finds.

Dubai's choking traffic jams, among the worst in the world, could be altering the way people's brains function, according to new research.

Dutch scientists have discovered that just an hour of exposure to exhaust fumes - about average commute for many working in Dubai - changes the way a brain processes information, with this disruption continuing for some time after the exposure.

The scientists said over time this could interfere with normal brain functions and have called for further research to be done to assess the long-term implications on people.

"We can only speculate what these effects may mean for the chronic exposure to air pollution encountered in busy cities where the levels of such soot particles can be very high," said lead researcher Paul Borm, quoted British broadcaster the BBC on Tuesday.

"It is conceivable that the long-term effects of exposure to traffic nanoparticles may interfere with normal brain function and information processing. Further studies are necessary to explore this effect."

The team of scientists from Zuyd University had 10 volunteers spend an hour in a room filled with either clean air or exhaust fumes. They were monitored while they were in the room and for an hour afterwards.

The findings have been published in the journal Particle and Fibre Toxicology.

Dubai is rated among the worst polluters per vehicle in the world, according to a study by Dubai Municipality.

The study ranked the emirate way behind many US cities in the level of harmful pollutants including hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and carbon dioxide in the air.

The UAE is also one of the biggest polluters of greenhouse gases per capita in the world, according to a UN Development Programme report last year, ranked third behind Qatar and Kuwait.

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