Children and teenagers exposed to high levels of traffic- related air pollution may experience a specific type of DNA damage called telomere shortening, a new study has warned. According to the study, published in the Journal of Occupational and environmental medicine, young people with asthma have also shown signs of telomere shortening, which is a type of DNA damage normally related to ageing.
“Our results suggest that telomere length may have potential for use as a biomarker of DNA damage due to environmental exposures and/or chronic inflammation,” said the study by John Balmes of University of California, Berkeley, and colleagues. “Telomeres might also provide new insights into the understanding how pollution exposure leads to adverse health outcomes,” the researchers said
The study was conducted on 14 children and teenagers living in Fresno, California said to be the second most polluted city in the US. The researchers analysed the link between the telomeres shortening and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons(PAHs) which is an air pollutant released by vehicle exhaust.
The study found that more the exposure to PAH’S, more was the decrease in the telomere length in a linear way. Children and adolescents had more exposure to higher levels of PAH levels than those not suffering from asthma.
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The study has added to findings from previous studies which reveal that air pollution is responsible for oxidative stress, which is harmful and damaging to lipids, proteins and DNA. Research has further implied that as children may have different telomere shortening regulation than adults, they may be more susceptible to the harmful effects of air pollution.