Dirty genes

Breathing in polluted air could reprogram a person’s DNA in only three days, according to a new study of steel workers in Italy. While most of us don’t live with the kinds of factory conditions the steel workers were exposed to, researchers say city dwellers breathing regular air could be affected similarly, it just may take weeks or months to show up rather than days.

According to National Geographic News, the workers’ blood was sampled before they were exposed to the factory air and again a few days later. The samples showed changes in the methylation—a process where genes are organized into different groups—of four genes that suppress tumors, which may be related to the development of lung cancer.

Lead researcher Andrea Baccarelli of the University of Milan said the results need to be confirmed in air pollution studies.