Moth balls may cause cancer in children

According to a new study, children exposed to high levels of the common air pollutant naphthalene are at increased risk for chromosomal aberrations (CAs), which have been previously associated with cancer.

Naphthalene is found in both outdoor and indoor urban air. It is present in automotive exhaust, tobacco smoke, and is the primary component of household mothball fumes. Classified as a possible carcinogen by the International Agency for Cancer Research, naphthalene belongs to a class of air pollutants called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). Prior research has established a link between prenatal exposure to PAH and increased risk for childhood obesity, IQ deficits, and CAs. The new study is the first to present evidence in humans of CAs.

CAs have been associated with increased cancer risk in adults. Translocations are of special concern as they result in a portion of one chromosome being juxtaposed to another, potentially scrambling the genetic script.

"Translocations can persist for years after exposure. Some damage will be repaired, but not everyone's repair capacity is the same. Previous studies suggest that chromosomal breaks can double an adult's lifetime risk for cancer, though implications for children are unknown," says first author Manuela Orjuela.

Similar Threads: