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Medical News and Perspectives
June 9, 2004

Heritable Mutations Linked to Pollution

JAMA. 2004;291(22):2689. doi:10.1001/jama.291.22.2689

Exposure to airborne particles may cause heritable genetic changes in mice, according to a new study. Although more research is needed before drawing any links to humans, the results add to accumulating evidence that inhaling air pollution may pose genetic risks (Science. 2004;304:1008-1010).

Researchers at McMaster University, in Hamilton, Ontario, and Lakeland College, in Vermilion, Alberta, studied two groups of mice housed in separate sheds near a major highway and two steel mills. One group lived inside a chamber equipped with a high-efficiency particulate-air (HEPA) filtration system, while the other group breathed ambient air. The researchers also housed third and fourth groups of mice under identical housing conditions 30 km away from the industrial site. A total of 21 male and 21 female mice were housed at each field site.

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