Reduction of Particulate Air Pollution Lowers the Risk of Heritable Mutations in Mice

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Science  14 May 2004:
Vol. 304, Issue 5673, pp. 1008-1010
DOI: 10.1126/science.1095815

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Urban and industrial air pollution can cause elevated heritable mutation rates in birds and rodents. The relative importance of airborne particulate matter versus gas-phase substances in causing these genetic effects under ambient conditions has been unclear. Here we show that high-efficiency particulate-air (HEPA) filtration of ambient air significantly reduced heritable mutation rates at repetitive DNA loci in laboratory mice housed outdoors near a major highway and two integrated steel mills. These findings implicate exposure to airborne particulate matter as a principal factor contributing to elevated mutation rates in sentinel mice and add to accumulating evidence that air pollution may pose genetic risks to humans and wildlife.

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