Genetic Damage from Air Pollution May Be Heritable

Air pollution can cause genetic mutations, and those mutations can be passed along to offspring, according to a new report in the journal Science. A pair of Canadian researchers ran a study on two groups of mice, both located downwind from two steel mills in air containing a high concentration of airborne particulates, but one of the groups had its air pass through high-efficiency air filters. Baby mice born into the unprotected group inherited about twice as many mutations as babies in the protected group. For now, the researchers do not know if the particular mutations are related to any health problems, or whether the findings extend to human beings, but the study certainly raises further concern about soot, which has been related to a variety of maladies. For his part, study author James Quinn says that if he lived in an area with sooty air, “I would install a filtration unit in my home or wear a mask when I went out.”