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Even Brief Exposure to Air Pollution May Damage DNA May 22, 2009
Pollution spewing from smoke stack.
Damage to human DNA may also occur in city dwellers exposed to typical pollution levels of urban air.
Being exposed to polluted air for only a few days appears to cause damage to human DNA that could reduce a personís ability to fight off cancer.

University of Milan researcher Andrea Baccarelli and colleagues compared blood samples from 63 healthy workers who were exposed to high levels of air pollution for only three days at a foundry near Milan.

The researchers found changes in the workers' genes that may have been caused by a chemical transformation that has been linked to gene reprogramming.

The same changes have also been detected in the blood and tissue samples of lung cancer patients, Baccarelli noted while speaking at an American Thoracic Society conference in San Diego.

“The changes in DNA methylation we observed are reversible, and some of them are currently being used as targets of cancer drugs," said Baccarelli.

He added that it might someday be possible to develop a therapy program that could change the damaged genes back to normal and reduce the health risks of air pollution exposure.

Photo: Stock