Polluted acidic air may devastate human DNA to the point of reprogramming or causing genes to change in just three days, leaving people vulnerable to cancerous lungs and other dis-eases, according to a new Italian study.
The researchers, who discovered rapid DNA damage and transformation in Italian steel workers who inhaled acidic polluted foundry air, say it might happen to anyone living in a large city.
The study examined 63 healthy people who were exposed routinely to acidic particulate matter while they worked in a steel mill in Brescia, Italy, and. The air around steel foundries usually has about 10 times more acidic particulate matter than normal air, and a larger percentage of the acidic particles are heavy metals.
During the work week, two blood DNA samples were taken from the workers, one sample on the first day of the week before they were heavily exposed to the foundry air, and the other sample after several days on the job. A comparison of the samples showed changes in four genes that are believed to suppress the formation of tumors.
The workers' DNA was damaged to the point that the rate of a body process called "methylation" was slowed, the researchers said. Methylation is a normal, ongoing biological process in which genes are organized into different groups. The slowing of methylation in the workers meant that fewer groups and therefore fewer genes were expressed and made into proteins, which is vital to the regular maintenance of the body. Such a reduction also has been observed in the DNA of patients with cancerous lungs.
Study leader Andrea Baccarelli of the University of Milan said previous research has demonstrated that older people in Boston had DNA damage from particulate matter. However, Baccarelli said, "Our results need to be confirmed in air pollution studies before they can be extended to the general population."
On a hopeful note, the research team raised the possibility that methylation damage can be ameliorated with folic acid, a B vitamin found in many foods. "We found that subjects with higher intakes of methyl nutrients were protected from some of the cardiac effects of particulate matter," Baccarelli said.
Dr. Robert O. Young, Director of Research at the pH Miracle Living Center suggests, "all genetic changes within any cell are always the result of an acidic change in the environment surrounding that cell. These cellular changes are generally caused by acidic contributing factors such as primary or secondary acidic smoke from cigarettes or living and/or working in acidic polluted environments. The best way to protect any cell from acidic genetic change that can lead to a cancerous condition is to maintain the delicate alkaline pH of the fluids surrounding that cell with an alkaline lifestyle and diet."