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Chemical exposure raises risk of chronic diseases

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Air polution. Image source stutterstock

Air polution. Image source stutterstock

• Generator, traffic fumes associated with rise in cancer, low IQ in children
• Health problems costing N35 trillion per year
• Infant growth affected by exposure to environmental pollutants
• Plastic chemicals alter levels of pregnancy hormone that influences sex development

Researchers conclude they are 99 percent certain that hormone-altering chemicals are linked to attention problems, diabetes, other health problems even as they say that people living in areas with more air pollution face a greater risk of carotid artery stenosis, a narrowing of the arteries that supply blood to the brain.

Carotid artery stenosis, which results when fatty substances build up in the arteries in the neck, is associated with more than half of the strokes. Chemicals that can mimic or block estrogen or other hormones are commonly found in thousands of products around the world, including plastics, pesticides, furniture, and cosmetics.

According to the first studies published last Thursday in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals is likely leading to an increased risk of serious health problems costing at least $175 billion per year in Europe alone.

The researchers detailed the costs related to three types of conditions: neurological effects, such as attention deficit disorders; obesity and diabetes; and male reproductive disorders, including infertility. Some hormone-altering chemicals in consumer products have been linked to increased risk of diabetes.

The new research estimated health care costs in Europe, where policymakers are debating whether to enact the world’s first regulations targeting endocrine disruptors. The European Union’s controversial strategy, if approved, would have a profound effect on industries and consumer products worldwide.

Meanwhile, a group of researchers from the department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, Biochemistry, and Pharmacology of University of Lagos, has associated the rising cases of cancer in Nigeria to the frequent use of petroleum powered generators. The researchers led by Associated Professor of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, Chimezie Anyakora, concluded: “Due to the epileptic power supply, a lot of Nigerians has resorted into the use of petroleum powered generators to meet their daily utility usage.

The inevitable use of these generator sets by almost every household increasingly constitutes nuisance to the environment and society at large. Coupled to its attendant noise and air pollution, generator fumes has been associated with the growing cases of cancers, premature birth, and changes in biochemical parameters like haematological disorder, liver disorder, kidney disorder, hormonal disorder, histopathological changes and sudden death.” The study titled “1-hydroxypyrene levels in blood samples of rats after exposure to generator fumes” was published in Biomarker Cancer.

Anyakora told The Guardian: “Generator fumes contribute significantly to the atmospheric level of Polynuclear Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) and PAHs have long been reported as the largest class of “cancer-causing” chemical compounds. This suggests a significant risk of cancer to the population in an environment where the use of generator is commonplace.

Furthermore, 1-hydroxypyrene which is a biological marker of measuring PAH exposure has been linked with several types of cancer.” PAHs are a major component of fuel generator fumes. Carcinogenicity of these compounds has long been established The researchers found that after 42 days of eight-hour exposure of 37 swiss rats to generator fumes at varying distances, the blood concentration level of 1-hydroxypyrene in the rats ranged from 34 μg/mL to 26.29 μg/mL depending on the distance from source of exposure.

The control group had no 1-hydroxypyrene in their blood. After the period of exposure, percentage of death correlated positively with the distance from the source of exposure. Percentage of death ranged from 56 per cent to zero depending on the proximity to the source of pollution.

In another study by the same research group, they investigated the hematological, liver, kidney, hormonal and histopathological changes in the aforementioned exposed rats when compared to the control. The histopathological investigation showed degenerated organs in the exposed animals compared to control.

There equally reported a significant increase in packed cell volume, white blood cells, lymphocytes, neutrophiles, monocytes and platelets in the exposed animals compared to the control unexposed rats.

Liver and kidney function parameters were also significantly increased whereas there were no significant difference in follicle stimulating hormone, prolactin, progesterone and estradiol amongst the animals, however, luteinizing hormone was increased in 300 meter exposed rats.

Anyakora further stated: “These studies have demonstrated that constant exposure to generator fume as is the case in Nigeria could induce some biochemical changes which may be toxic to exposed individuals and may lead to adverse health conditions such as cancer. It is a silent killer and worst killer than most known diseases because you can’t smell, taste, feel or see it most of the time. It just keeps accumulating in the system, especially through the lungs since compounds like PAHs are fat loving (lipophilic).”

Meanwhile, several recent studies have linked air pollution with cardiovascular problems, but most have focused on effects in the heart and surrounding arteries. This new study is the first to examine effects in the arteries in the head and neck, shedding light on how air pollution might increase the risk of strokes that deprive the brain of oxygen.

The study, “Particulate Air Pollution and Carotid Artery Stenosis,” is published online in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology and will be presented on March 16 at 9:45 am at the American College of Cardiology’s 64th Annual Scientific Session in San Diego, United States.



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