Pollution and childhood: could pollution effects be generational?

In a recent study conducted by Stanford University on the effects of air pollution on Hispanic children living in Fresno, California. Fresno is known about its highly polluted air due to many agricultural wildfires and industrial complexes.

This Is the first study to look at the effects of pollution on single cells and connect it to the health of the cardiovascular and immune system.

The study found that high levels of pollution can adjust the gene regulating machinery even If exposure to pollution isn’t chronic. Using mass spectrometry, the researchers were able to detect cell markers that define polluted cells. It was found that Carbon monoxide pollution can cause methylation to a cell’s DNA; an adjustment that can change the gene expression without changing its actual structure. however, this change can be passed down in generations. Something that might explain higher blood pressure values obtained for Hispanics living in highly polluted areas.

It is used to be thought that pollution only affects the respiratory system in ways like asthma, COPD, etc. Now, evidence is accumulating to show that pollution effects are a lot more than that. "It looks like even brief air pollution exposure can actually change the regulation and expression of children's genes and perhaps alter blood pressure, potentially laying the foundation for increased risk of disease later in life.” Says Mary Prunicki, director of air pollution and health research at Stanford.

I think it is really important to further research what long term effects does pollution affects and how to avoid them, especially in communities at a disadvantage like the Hispanic community in Fresno.

We know that respiratory diseases are the second highest cause of death worldwide, but now we have a solid evidence that those effects might be generational and preventative measures are a must.


Mary Prunicki, Nicholas Cauwenberghs, Justin Lee, Xiaoying Zhou, Hesam Movassagh, Elizabeth Noth, Fred Lurmann, S. Katharine Hammond, John R. Balmes, Manisha Desai, Joseph C. Wu, Kari C. Nadeau. Air pollution exposure is linked with methylation of immunoregulatory genes, altered immune cell profiles, and increased blood pressure in children. Scientific Reports, 2021; 11 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-021-83577-3