January 29, 2014
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BAKERSFIELD, CA - New research suggests the valley's air pollution could be altering our DNA.
groundbreaking study from Stanford and UC Berkeley said asthmatic
children in Fresno also have low T-cell counts, the cells crucial to
maintaining a healthy immune system.
"If I see a patient with
severe bronchial asthma taking a bunch of medication and still the
quality of life is poor, I would tell them to leave this place," said
Bakersfield pulmonary specialist Dr. Mushtaq Ahmed.
Ahmed said he believes there's a direct connection between the respiratory problems of his patients and the air they breathe.
who had never been asthmatic become asthmatic here," said Ahmed. "So,
there's always cause-relation. Air pollution is the biggest issue we
Recently, researchers from Stanford and UC Berkeley showed
exposure to valley air pollution seemed to suppress a gene, suggesting
the bad air is changing and altering our DNA.
The study says
emissions of gasoline, diesel, natural gas, and wood-burning create
polysilic aeromatic hydrocarbons [PAH] that when inhaled, will weaken
healthy immune fighting T-cells in children.
"This is a
mechanism at the molecular level, all the way down to the way your
immune system works and the genes that control, that shows we have some
change in immune function, and the genes that control that immune
function are altered," said Kern Medical Center respiratory specialist,
Dr. Royce Johnson.
The study only looked at children, but Kern
County doctors said they suspect air pollution has damaging effects on a
"The compounds can be transmitted from mother
to unborn baby," said Johnson. "So, we may be seeing some of these
genetic defects occurring even before you're born."
doctors said they'd like to see epidemiologic studies done across the
valley to prove if pollution is changing our bodies.