McMaster University biologists Jim Quinn and Chris Somers have demonstrated
that male laboratory mice exposed to
Hamilton steel-mill emissions transfer mutated genes to their young.
Their research is the first in the world to show such a connection.
While gene mutations may increase risk of cancer and birth defects, the scientists
said they can't make a direct comparison
to human health.
At the same time, they said, there's every reason to believe human genes react the same way.
Quinn and Somers placed one colony of laboratory mice downwind of the Stelco
and Dofascomills and another in rural
Freelton for 10 weeks in the fall of 1999.
They then allowed the mice to breed and tested tail tissue for gene damage.
They found far more mutations in the city mice, mutations that were inherited
by baby mice almost entirely from their
The results appear in the current issue of a respected U.S. research journal,
Proceedings of the National Academy of
Quinn and Somers blame the genetic damage mainly on polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
or PAHs -- toxic chemical
compounds that attach themselves to microscopic, breathable particles of soot and dust.
They say PAHs are among the most gene-damaging urban air pollutants and that steel mills are a major source.