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New York City study shows newborns more susceptible to pollution than their mothers

A new study of the effects of combustion-related air pollutants in New York City reveals that babies in the womb are more susceptible than their mothers to DNA damage from such pollution. Despite the protection provided by the placenta, which reduces the fetal dose to an estimated one-tenth the dose of the mother, the levels of DNA damage in the newborns were similar to those found in their mothers.

The study was funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), a part of the National Institutes of Health, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as well as a number of private foundations.

The study will be published in the June issue of Environmental Health Perspectives, a peer-reviewed scientific journal published by NIEHS. The full report is available online at http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/.

Results of the study, the first of its kind in New York City, were released today by the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health, part of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. These findings are especially notable since evidence from previous studies of laboratory rodents suggests that the fetus is more susceptible to the carcinogenic effects of the same pollutants than the adult.

The study was designed to measure the effects of prenatal and maternal exposure to combustion-related pollutants, known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), on DNA damage. PAHs are carcinogenic air pollutants that are released into the environment as a result of combustion from car, truck, or bus engines, residential heating, power generation, or tobacco smoking. According to the researchers, PAHs are able to cross the placental barrier.

In the study, researchers collected blood samples from 265 pairs of mothers and newborns living in New York City. The mothers were non-smoking African American or Latina women in Washington Heights, Central Harlem and the
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Contact: John Peterson
peterso4@niehs.nih.gov
919-541-7860
NIH/National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
23-Jun-2004


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