Study: Pollution Can Change Your DNA in 3 Days
We've known for a long time that breathing in polluted air can cause health problems, but a recent Italian study determined that just three days of exposure to polluted air can do damage to human DNA.
The study followed DNA damage in 63 steel-foundry workers in Brescia, Italy, who, under normal day-to-day factory conditions, were exposed to particulate matter. Particulate matter includes "suspended, tiny bits of dust, metal, or soot in the air, which can lodge deep in the lungs". Exposure to these substances has been linked to respiratory diseases, lung cancer and heart problems.
According to the study, a brief 72 hours of exposure to high levels of particulates can increase the risk of developing cancer and other diseases, and changes four genes linked to tumor suppression. Results also showed that exposed workers' DNA was damaged by a "slowed rate of "methylation," the biological process by which genes are structured into different chemical groups.
According to study author Andrea Baccarelli of the University of Milan, scientists know little about how inhaling particulate matter can cause health problems. But they do know that the same damage may occur in city-dwelling people exposed to "normal" urban air pollutants.
Thankfully, researchers believe that the effects are reversible over time with the use of vitamins like folic acid, and scientists are still forming theories about gene reprogramming as well as ways to prevent or reverse damage using methyl nutrients.