Air to lung to DNA

Air pollutants damage genes, affect human behaviour

THE air you breathe in may affect your health in more ways than you think. Besides causing respiratory disorders and hypertension, pollution may be damaging genes and changing human behaviour, revealed a study on health of urban population in Delhi and rural population West Bengal and Uttarakhand.

The Central Pollution Control Board (cpcb) sponsored the study that links the pollutant, pm 10 (particulate matter smaller than 10 microns), to these illnesses. The central regulatory authority recently prescribed stricter norms for a number of air toxins and pollutants but omitted revision of the standard for pm 10.

“We have focused on physical and mental health of minors and adults exposed to air pollution,” said Manas Ranjan Ray, head of the experimental haematology department of Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute (cnci) based in Kolkata and the key researcher. The group compared the health of 11,628 schoolchildren and 6,005 adults living in Delhi for more than 10 years to that of 4,536 schoolchildren and 1,046 adults in rural West Bengal and Uttarakhand.

“The study establishes the clinical link between respiratory problems and urbanization,” said Randeep Guleria, professor of medicine, aiims. He added that doctors have been observing a spiral in chronic diseases like allergic rhinitis, asthma, chronic bronchitis and coronary diseases.

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