MAC: Mines and Communities

Air pollution damages across generations

Published by MAC on 2002-12-10

Air pollution damages across generations

10 December 2002

Environment News Network (ENN)

Air pollution from steel mills causes genetic damage that fathers can pass to the next generation, researchers in Canada reported Monday.

It is not clear if the genetic damage could harm anyone's health, but tests on mice showed that those allowed to breathe air from near a smoke-belching steel mill had fewer pups and those pups had more genetic mutations than their country cousins.

The findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest that steel mill workers and people living near those mills should be checked for damage to their health, said the researchers, at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.

"Our findings suggest that there is an urgent need to investigate the genetic consequences associated with exposure to chemical pollution through the inhalation of urban and industrial air," they wrote in their report.

Christopher Somers, James Quinn, and colleagues did an earlier study that showed gulls living near a steel mill on Lake Ontario had genetic mutations. In this study, they raised two groups of mice one half a mile downwind of the mill and one about 20 miles away.

The mice made to breathe the polluted air had 1.5 times to twice as many mutations in their DNA as the mice breathing fresh country air, Somers and colleagues reported.

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