Whenever you grill meat, mow a lawn with a gas lawnmower, or drive a gas-powered vehicle, you’re producing newly discovered, highly mutagenic cancer causing compounds called PAHs and NPAHs, according to a recent study by scientists from four universities: Oregon State, Peking University, Texas A&M University, and the University of California-Riverside.
These newly identified cancer causing compounds are in the air pollution of major cities, and also are created whenever we grill food, like hamburgers, hotdogs, chicken, and steak. No health standards or regulations exist yet for them, as they haven’t been known about long enough for such standards and regulations to have been developed yet.
These extremely mutagenic cancer causing chemical compounds were discovered as a result of experiments designed to mimic the grilling of meat over a fire, or combustion and exhaust fumes emitted by gas-powered vehicles.
Chemicals that alter, or mutate, genetic material are mutagens. Many mutagens are carcinogenic agents, chemicals or chemical compounds known to result in cancer.
The research that the scientists from the four universities did involved parent compounds known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). These PAHs are formed by almost any sort of combustion, like from cars, trucks, wood stoves, coal-fired power plants, and cigarettes.
Several of these PAHs are carcinogenic, like benzopyrene. They are a major health concern in and of themselves, and are being researched around the world.
According to scientists, when PAHs interact with nitrogen and become “nitrated (NPAHs),” they become even more of a health problem. Until now, NPAHs were unknown.
Staci Simonich, a professor of chemistry and toxicology in the OSU College of Agricultural Sciences, states that these NHPAH compounds “may exist in the environment as a result of heavy air pollution from vehicles or some types of food preparation.”
According to the findings of the study published in December 2013 in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, all it takes is one nitrogen group combined with the NPAHs to increase the direct mutagenicity of the NPAHs anywhere from six to 432 times greater than the PAHs, or parent compounds, that they’re derived from.
Increase the number of nitrogen groups to two, and the resultant NPAHs can be 272-467 times more mutagenic. The researchers state that they’re being modest in their assessments and that the toxicity might be much higher than the estimates they give in the recent study.
Simonich’s previous research into PAHs during the Beijing Summer Olympic Games laid the groundwork for the joint work the researchers did involving NPAHs.The government of China and other governments and athletes worldwide wondered what the affects might be of Beijing’s bad air pollution, and what the impact of it might be on the individual performances.
A World Health Organization agency declared last fall that air pollution — especially particulate air pollution — is carcinogenic and can also pose other serious health problems. PAHs are found on particulate matter that makes up a lot of air pollution.
Simonich had the idea of conducting air quality monitoring on Mount Bachelor in Oregon, to find out the levels of air pollution that there were in air that journeyed to the United States from countries on the other side of the Pacific Ocean.
The work of the researchers at the four universities involving the impact of the newly discovered cancer causing compounds, PAHs and NPAHs, was funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and OSU’s Superfund Research Program.
Written by: Douglas Cobb