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1.  Prenatal Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon (PAH) Exposure and Child Behavior at Age 6–7 Years 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2012;120(6):921-926.
Background: Airborne polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) are widespread urban air pollutants from fossil fuel burning and other combustion sources. We previously reported that a broad spectrum of combustion-related DNA adducts in cord blood was associated with attention problems at 6–7 years of age in the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health (CCCEH) longitudinal cohort study.
Objectives: We evaluated the relationship between behavioral problems and two different measures of prenatal exposure—both specific to PAH—in the same cohort.
Methods: Children of nonsmoking African-American and Dominican women in New York City (NYC) were followed from in utero to 6–7 years. Prenatal PAH exposure was estimated by personal air monitoring of the mothers during pregnancy as well as by the measurement of DNA adducts specific to benzo[a]pyrene (BaP), a representative PAH, in maternal and cord blood. At 6–7 years of age, child behavior was assessed using the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) (n = 253). Generalized linear models were used to test the association between prenatal PAH exposure and behavioral outcomes.
Results: In multivariate analyses, high prenatal PAH exposure, whether characterized by personal air monitoring (greater than the median of 2.27 ng/m3) or maternal and cord adducts (detectable or higher), was positively associated with symptoms of Anxious/Depressed and Attention Problems (p ≤ 0.05).
Conclusion: These results provide additional evidence that environmental levels of PAH encountered in NYC air can adversely affect child behavior.
PMCID: PMC3385432  PMID: 22440811
air pollution; child behavior; PAH; prenatal
2.  Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon metabolite levels and pediatric allergy and asthma in an inner-city cohort 
Exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) has been associated with allergic sensitization and asthma. We hypothesized that increased urinary PAH metabolites are associated with allergy or asthma among children age 5 yrs in an inner-city birth cohort. As part of an ongoing prospective birth cohort under the auspices of the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health (CCCEH), urine was collected from 5-yr-old children (n = 222) of Dominican American and African American mothers in Northern Manhattan and South Bronx of New York City. Twenty-four PAH metabolites were measured in these specimens, and their levels (unadjusted and specific gravity corrected) were evaluated with IgE levels and asthma outcomes. Ten metabolites were detected in urine from all children. Concentrations ranged higher than those in representative samples of US children ages 6–11 in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Among CCCEH children, compared with African Americans, the Dominican children had higher 2-hydroxynaphthalene but lower 9-hydroxyfluorene and 4-hydroxyphenanthrene concentrations. Increased 3-hydroxyfluorene and 3-hydroxyphenanthrene levels were associated with higher anti-mouse IgE levels (p < 0.05). These plus 2-hydroxynaphthalene, 2-hydroxyflourene and 1-hydroxyphenanthrene concentrations were associated with higher anti-mouse IgE levels on multivariate analyzes. Increased 2-hydroxyphenanthrene, 3-hydroxyphenanthrene and 4-hydroxyphenanthrene levels were associated with higher anti-cat IgE levels (p < 0.05) in univariate, but not multivariate, analyzes. Levels of PAH metabolites were not associated with respiratory symptoms. Measures of PAH metabolites suggest considerable exposure in an urban pediatric population, and possible associations with allergic sensitization to mouse.
PMCID: PMC2865561  PMID: 20003063
polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; inner-city asthma; allergen-specific IgE
3.  Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons, Environmental Tobacco Smoke, and Respiratory Symptoms in an Inner-city Birth Cohort 
Chest  2004;126(4):1071-1078.
Study objectives
Several studies have found associations between diesel exposure, respiratory symptoms, and/or impaired pulmonary function. We hypothesized that prenatal exposure to airborne polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), important components of diesel exhaust and other combustion sources, may be associated with respiratory symptoms in young children. We also hypothesized that exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) may worsen symptoms beyond that observed to be associated with PAH alone.
To test our hypotheses, we recruited 303 pregnant women from northern Manhattan believed to be at high risk for exposure to both PAH and ETS, collected 48-h personal PAH exposure measurements, and monitored their children prospectively.
By 12 months of age, more cough and wheeze were reported in children exposed to prenatal PAH in concert with ETS postnatally (PAH × ETS interaction odds ratios [ORs], 1.41 [p < 0.01] and 1.29 [p < 0.05], respectively). By 24 months, difficulty breathing and probable asthma were reported more frequently among children exposed to prenatal PAH and ETS postnatally (PAH × ETS ORs, 1.54 and 1.64, respectively [p < 0.05]).
Our results suggest that early exposure to airborne PAH and ETS can lead to increased respiratory symptoms and probable asthma by age 12 to 24 months. Interventions to lower the risk of respiratory disease in young children living in the inner city may need to address the importance of multiple environmental exposures.
PMCID: PMC2223076  PMID: 15486366
asthma; environmental tobacco smoke; polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
4.  Prenatal exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, environmental tobacco smoke and asthma 
Respiratory medicine  2010;105(6):869-876.
Previously, we reported that prenatal exposures to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and postnatal environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) in combination were associated with respiratory symptoms at ages 1 and 2 years. Here, we hypothesized that children exposed to both prenatal PAH and ETS may be at greater risk of asthma and seroatopy at ages 5 to 6 years, after controlling for current pollution exposure.
Prenatal PAH exposure was measured by personal air monitoring over 48 hrs. ETS exposure, respiratory symptoms and asthma at ages 5–6 years were assessed through questionnaire. Immunoglobulin (Ig) E was measured by Immunocap.
A significant interaction between prenatal PAH and prenatal (but not postnatal) ETS exposure on asthma (p<0.05), but not IgE, was detected. Among children exposed to prenatal ETS, a positive nonsignificant association was found between prenatal PAH exposure and asthma (OR 1.96, 95% CI [0.95–4.05]). Among children without exposure to prenatal ETS, a negative nonsignificant association was found between prenatal PAH exposure and asthma (OR 0.65, 95% CI [0.41–1.01]). Prenatal PAH exposure was not associated with asthma or IgE at age 5 to 6 years.
Combined prenatal exposure to PAH and ETS appears to be associated with asthma but not seroatopy at age 5–6. Exposure to PAH alone does not appear associated with either asthma or seroatopy at age 5 to 6 years. Discerning the differential effects between ETS exposed and ETS nonexposed children requires further study.
PMCID: PMC3081952  PMID: 21163637
5.  Epidemiologic evidence for asthma and exposure to air toxics: linkages between occupational, indoor, and community air pollution research. 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2002;110(Suppl 4):573-589.
Outdoor ambient air pollutant exposures in communities are relevant to the acute exacerbation and possibly the onset of asthma. However, the complexity of pollutant mixtures and etiologic heterogeneity of asthma has made it difficult to identify causal components in those mixtures. Occupational exposures associated with asthma may yield clues to causal components in ambient air pollution because such exposures are often identifiable as single-chemical agents (e.g., metal compounds). However, translating occupational to community exposure-response relationships is limited. Of the air toxics found to cause occupational asthma, only formaldehyde has been frequently investigated in epidemiologic studies of allergic respiratory responses to indoor air, where general consistency can be shown despite lower ambient exposures. The specific volatile organic compounds (VOCs) identified in association with occupational asthma are generally not the same as those in studies showing respiratory effects of VOC mixtures on nonoccupational adult and pediatric asthma. In addition, experimental evidence indicates that airborne polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) exposures linked to diesel exhaust particles (DEPs) have proinflammatory effects on airways, but there is insufficient supporting evidence from the occupational literature of effects of DEPs on asthma or lung function. In contrast, nonoccupational epidemiologic studies have frequently shown associations between allergic responses or asthma with exposures to ambient air pollutant mixtures with PAH components, including black smoke, high home or school traffic density (particularly truck traffic), and environmental tobacco smoke. Other particle-phase and gaseous co-pollutants are likely causal in these associations as well. Epidemiologic research on the relationship of both asthma onset and exacerbation to air pollution is needed to disentangle effects of air toxics from monitored criteria air pollutants such as particle mass. Community studies should focus on air toxics expected to have adverse respiratory effects based on biological mechanisms, particularly irritant and immunological pathways to asthma onset and exacerbation.
PMCID: PMC1241209  PMID: 12194890
6.  Assessment of association of exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons with bronchial asthma and oxidative stress in children: A case control study 
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) originate from the incomplete combustion of organic matter and ambient air pollution by these is increasing. There is also an increase in the global prevalence of asthma, for which environmental pollution has been recognized as one of the important factors. Exposure to pollutants and other allergens induces chronic airway inflammation by generation of reactive oxygen species, causing oxidative stress. Therefore, the objective of the present study was to assess association, if any, between exposure to PAH and asthma as well as oxidative stress in children.
In this hospital-based case control study, cases of bronchial asthma aged 1–14 years and healthy matched controls were included. Oxidative stress was measured by assessing the levels of enzymes catalase, superoxide dismutase, malondialdehyde (MDA), and reduced glutathione (GSH).
Forty-two cases and 20 controls were enrolled. Mean blood level of phenanthrene, a PAH, was 63.11 ppb ± 115.62 and 4.20 ppb ± 10.68 ppb in cases and controls, respectively (P = 0.02). Mean blood levels of GSH was significantly lower in cases and controls (27.39 μg/ml ± 11.09 versus 47.39 g/ml ± 13.83; P-value = 0.001). Likewise, mean blood level of MDA in nanomole/ml was significantly higher in asthma as compared with controls (12.85 ± 5.40 versus 8.19 ± 5.16; P-value = 0.002), suggestive of increased oxidative stress.
Because elevated blood level of phenanthrene is associated with bronchial asthma as well as with oxidative stress, measures to reduce exposure to PAH may possibly lead to reduced incidence and severity of bronchial asthma.
PMCID: PMC2822167  PMID: 20165611
Asthma; children; India; phenanthrene; polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; oxidative stress
7.  Prenatal and Postnatal Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon Exposure, Airway Hyperreactivity, and Beta-2 Adrenergic Receptor Function in Sensitized Mouse Offspring 
Journal of Toxicology  2013;2013:603581.
Despite data associating exposure to traffic-related polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) in asthma, mechanistic support has been limited. We hypothesized that both prenatal and early postnatal exposure to PAH would increase airway hyperreactivity (AHR) and that the resulting AHR may be insensitive to treatment with a β2AR agonist drug, procaterol. Further, we hypothesized that these exposures would be associated with altered β2AR gene expression and DNA methylation in mouse lungs. Mice were exposed prenatally or postnatally to a nebulized PAH mixture versus negative control aerosol 5 days a week. Double knockout β2AR mice were exposed postnatally only. Prenatal exposure to PAH was associated with reduced β2AR gene expression among nonsensitized mice offspring, but not increases in DNA methylation or AHR. Postnatal exposure to PAH was borderline associated with increased AHR among sensitized wildtype, but not knockout mice. In the first study that delivers PAH aerosols to mice in a relatively physiological manner, small effects on AHR and β2AR gene expression, but not β2AR agonist drug activity, were observed. If confirmed, the results may suggest that exposure to PAH, common ambient urban pollutants, affects β2AR function, although the impact on the efficacy of β2AR agonist drugs used in treating asthma remains uncertain.
PMCID: PMC3876588  PMID: 24454363
8.  Repeated exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and asthma: effect of seroatopy 
Exposure to traffic-related air pollutants, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), can induce asthma. However, the effects of early repeated PAH exposure over time on different asthma phenotypes have not been examined.
To assess associations between repeated PAH exposure, measured from prenatal personal and residential indoor monitors in children's homes, and asthma in an inner-city cohort.
Prenatal exposure was assessed by personal air monitoring during 48 hours and exposure at 5 to 6 years of age by 2-week residential monitoring in the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health cohort. PAH was dichotomized into pyrene (representative semivolatile PAH) and the sum of 8 nonvolatile PAHs. High exposure to each was defined as measures above the median at both repeated time points. Asthma and wheeze were determined by validated questionnaires at ages 5 to 6 years. Children with specific IgE levels greater than 0.35 IU/mL to any of 5 indoor allergens were considered seroatopic.
Among all 354 children, repeated high exposure to pyrene was associated with asthma (odds ratio [OR], 1.90; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.13-3.20). Among 242 nonatopic children, but not those sensitized to indoor allergens (n = 87) or with elevated total IgE levels (n = 171), high pyrene levels were associated positively with asthma (OR, 2.89; 95% CI, 1.77-5.69), asthma medication use (OR, 2.28; 95% CI, 1.13-4.59), and emergency department visits for asthma (OR, 2.43; 95% CI, 1.20-4.91). Associations between the levels of the 8 nonvolatile PAHs and asthma were not observed, even when stratifying by seroatopy.
Nonatopic children may be more susceptible to the respiratory consequences of early pyrene exposures.
PMCID: PMC3496175  PMID: 23010230
9.  Prenatal Exposure to Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons, Benzo[a]pyrene–DNA Adducts, and Genomic DNA Methylation in Cord Blood 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2012;120(5):733-738.
Background: Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are carcinogenic environmental pollutants generated during incomplete combustion. After exposure and during metabolism, PAHs can form reactive epoxides that can covalently bind to DNA. These PAH–DNA adducts are established markers of cancer risk. PAH exposure has been associated with epigenetic alterations, including genomic cytosine methylation. Both global hypomethylation and hypermethylation of specific genes have been associated with cancer and other diseases in humans. Experimental evidence suggests that PAH–DNA adduct formation may preferentially target methylated genomic regions. Early embryonic development may be a particularly susceptible period for PAH exposure, resulting in both increased PAH–DNA adducts and altered DNA methylation.
Objective: We explored whether prenatal exposure to PAHs is associated with genomic DNA methylation in cord blood and whether methylation levels are associated with the presence of detectable PAH–DNA adducts.
Methods: In a longitudinal cohort study of nonsmoking women in New York City, we measured PAH exposure during pregnancy using personal air monitors, assessed PAH internal dose using prenatal urinary metabolites (in a subset), and quantified benzo[a]pyrene–DNA adducts and genomic DNA methylation in cord blood DNA among 164 participants.
Results: Prenatal PAH exposure was associated with lower global methylation in umbilical cord white blood cells (p = 0.05), but global methylation levels were positively associated with the presence of detectable adducts in cord blood (p = 0.01).
Conclusions: These observations suggest that PAH exposure was adequate to alter global methylation in our study population. Additional epidemiologic studies that can measure site-specific cytosine methylation and adduct formation will improve our ability to understand this complex molecular pathway in vivo.
PMCID: PMC3346775  PMID: 22256332
adducts; epigenetics; methylation; polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; prenatal; umbilical cord blood
10.  Structurally distinct polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons induce differential transcriptional responses in developing zebrafish 
Toxicology and applied pharmacology  2013;272(3):656-670.
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are ubiquitous in the environment as components of fossil fuels and by-products of combustion. These multi-ring chemicals differentially activate the Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor (AHR) in a structurally dependent manner, and induce toxicity via both AHR-dependent and-independent mechanisms. PAH exposure is known to induce developmental malformations in zebrafish embryos, and recent studies have shown cardiac toxicity induced by compounds with low AHR affinity. Unraveling the potentially diverse molecular mechanisms of PAH toxicity is essential for understanding the hazard posed by complex PAH mixtures present in the environment. We analyzed transcriptional responses to PAH exposure in zebrafish embryos exposed to benz(a)anthracene (BAA), dibenzothiophene (DBT) and pyrene (PYR) at concentrations that induced developmental malformations by 120 hours post-fertilization (hpf). Whole genome microarray analysis of mRNA expression at 24 and 48 hpf identified genes that were differentially regulated over time and in response to the three PAH structures. PAH body burdens were analyzed at both time points using GC-MS, and demonstrated differences in PAH uptake into the embryos. This was important for discerning dose-related differences from those that represented unique molecular mechanisms. While BAA misregulated the least number of transcripts, it caused strong induction of cyp1a and other genes known to be downstream of the AHR, which were not induced by the other two PAHs. Analysis of functional roles of misregulated genes and their predicted regulatory transcription factors also distinguished the BAA response from regulatory networks disrupted by DBT and PYR exposure. These results indicate that systems approaches can be used to classify the toxicity of PAHs based on the networks perturbed following exposure, and may provide a path for unraveling the toxicity of complex PAH mixtures.
PMCID: PMC4098828  PMID: 23656968
toxicity; AHR; microarray; dibenzothiophene; pyrene; benz(a)anthracene; network analysis
11.  Diesel Exhaust Influences Carcinogenic PAH-Induced Genotoxicity and Gene Expression in Human Breast Epithelial Cells in Culture 
Mutation research  2007;625(1-2):72.
The carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon ns (PAHs) benzo[a]pyrene (B[a]P) and dibenzo[a,l]pyrene (DB[a,l]P) are widespread environmental pollutants, however their toxicological effects within a mixture is not established. We investigated the influence of diesel exhaust (DE) on B[a]P and DB[a,l]P-induced PAH-DNA adduct formation, metabolic activation, gene expression and 8-oxo-dG adduct levels in human breast epithelial cells (MCF-10A) in culture. Following 24 and 48 h, cells co-exposed to DE plus B[a]P exhibited a significant decrease in PAH-DNA adduct levels, compared with B[a]P alone, as determined by 33P-postlabeling combined with reversed-phase high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). Cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzyme activity, as measured by the ethoxyresorufin O-deethylase (EROD) assay and CYP1B1 expression, significantly increased with co-exposure of DE plus DB[a,l]P, compared with DB[a,l]P alone. Aldo keto-reductase (AKR)1C1, AKR1C2,and AKR1C3 expression also significantly increased in cells exposed to DE plus PAH, compared with PAH exposure alone. Cell populations exhibiting 8-oxo-dG adducts significantly increased in response to exposure to B[a]P or DE plus B[a]P for 24 h, compared with vehicle control, as quantified by flow cytometry. These results suggest that complex mixtures may modify the carcinogenic potency of PAH by shifting the metabolic activation pathway from the production of PAH diol-epoxides to AKR pathway-derived metabolites.
PMCID: PMC2815343  PMID: 17612574
12.  Relation of DNA Methylation of 5′-CpG Island of ACSL3 to Transplacental Exposure to Airborne Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons and Childhood Asthma 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(2):e4488.
In a longitudinal cohort of ∼700 children in New York City, the prevalence of asthma (>25%) is among the highest in the US. This high risk may in part be caused by transplacental exposure to traffic-related polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) but biomarkers informative of PAH-asthma relationships is lacking. We here hypothesized that epigenetic marks associated with transplacental PAH exposure and/or childhood asthma risk could be identified in fetal tissues. Mothers completed personal prenatal air monitoring for PAH exposure determination. Methylation sensitive restriction fingerprinting was used to analyze umbilical cord white blood cell (UCWBC) DNA of 20 cohort children. Over 30 DNA sequences were identified whose methylation status was dependent on the level of maternal PAH exposure. Six sequences were found to be homologous to known genes having one or more 5′-CpG island(s) (5′-CGI). Of these, acyl-CoA synthetase long-chain family member 3 (ACSL3) exhibited the highest concordance between the extent of methylation of its 5′-CGI in UCWBCs and the level of gene expression in matched fetal placental tissues in the initial 20 cohort children. ACSL3 was therefore chosen for further investigation in a larger sample of 56 cohort children. Methylation of the ACSL3 5′-CGI was found to be significantly associated with maternal airborne PAH exposure exceeding 2.41 ng/m3 (OR = 13.8; p<0.001; sensitivity = 75%; specificity = 82%) and with a parental report of asthma symptoms in children prior to age 5 (OR = 3.9; p<0.05). Thus, if validated, methylated ACSL3 5′CGI in UCWBC DNA may be a surrogate endpoint for transplacental PAH exposure and/or a potential biomarker for environmentally-related asthma. This exploratory report provides a new blueprint for the discovery of epigenetic biomarkers relevant to other exposure assessments and/or investigations of exposure-disease relationships in birth cohorts. The results support the emerging theory of early origins of later life disease development.
PMCID: PMC2637989  PMID: 19221603
13.  Maternal Exposure to Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons and 5’-CpG Methylation of Interferon-γ in Cord White Blood Cells 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2012;120(8):1195-1200.
Background: Maternal factors are implicated in the onset of childhood asthma. Differentiation of naïve CD4+ T lymphocytes into pro-allergic T-helper 2 cells induces interleukin (IL)4 expression and inhibits interferon (IFN)γ expression accompanied by concordant methylation changes in the promoters of these genes. However, it has yet to be established whether maternal exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) can alter these gene promoters epigenetically during fetal development.
Objectives: In this study we sought to elucidate the relationship between maternal PAH exposure and promoter methylation status of IFNγ and IL4.
Methods: We assessed the effects of benzo[a]pyrene (BaP), a representative airborne PAH, on the methylation status of the IFNγ and IL4 promoters in Jurkat cells and two lung adenocarcinoma cell lines, and on gene expression. In addition, we evaluated methylation status of the IFNγ promoter in cord white blood cells from 53 participants in the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health cohort. Maternal PAH exposure was estimated by personal air monitoring during pregnancy.
Results: In vitro exposure of the cell models to low, noncytotoxic doses (0.1 and 1 nM) of BaP elicited increased promoter hypermethylation and reduced expression of IFNγ, but not IL4. IFNγ promoter methylation in cord white blood cells was associated with maternal PAH exposure in the cohort study subsample.
Conclusion: Consistent with the results for the cell lines, maternal exposure to PAHs was associated with hypermethylation of IFNγ in cord blood DNA from cohort children. These findings support a potential role of epigenetics in fetal reprogramming by PAH-induced environmental diseases.
PMCID: PMC3440069  PMID: 22562770
cord white blood cell; cytokines; DNA methylation; epigenetic epidemiology; epigenetics; fetal origins of disease; interferon-γ; interleukin 4
14.  Prenatal PAH Exposure is Associated with Chromosome-specific Aberrations in Cord Blood 
Mutation research  2010;703(2):108-114.
Chromosomal aberrations are associated with increased cancer risk in adults. Previously, we demonstrated that stable aberrations involving chromosomes 1-6 in cord blood are associated with prenatal exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) measured in air and are disproportionate to genomic content. We now examine whether the association with air PAHs is chromosome-specific and extends to smaller chromosomes.
Using Whole Chromosome Paints for chromosomes 1-6, 11,12,14,19, and a 6q sub-telomere specific probe, we scored 48 cord bloods (1500 metaphases per sample) from newborns monitored prenatally for airborne PAH exposure in the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health cohort. Frequencies of stable aberrations were calculated as incident aberrations per 100 Cell Equivalents scored, and examined for association with airborne PAHs.
Aberrations in chromosome 6 occurred more frequently than predicted by genomic content (p<0.008). Levels of both prenatal airborne PAHs and stable aberration frequency in chromosomes 1-6 decreased to half the levels reported previously in the same cohort (mean PAH decreased from 3.6 to 1.8 ng/m3; mean stable aberration frequency from 0.56 to 0.24, SD=0.19). The mean stable aberration frequency was 0.45 (SD=0.15) in chromosomes 11-19. After adjusting for gender, ethnicity, and household smokers, the mean stable aberration frequency increased with increasing PAH exposure: with a doubling of prenatal PAH exposure, the mean stable aberration frequency for the chromosome1-6 group increased by a factor of 1.49 (95%CI: 0.84, 2.66; p=0.17); for chromosomes 11-19 mean stable aberration frequency increased by 2.00 (95%CI:1.11, 3.62; p=0.02); for chromosome 6 alone, it increased by 3.16 (95%CI: 0.93,10.77; p= 0.06); there was no increase for chromosomes1-5 (p>0.8). Aberrations in chromosomes 11,12,14,19 and 6 were associated with prenatal exposure to PAHs in air, even at lower levels of PAH in air. The observed chromosome-specific effects of prenatal airborne PAHs raise concern about potential cancer risk.
PMCID: PMC2991476  PMID: 20709184
Chromosomal aberrations; Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; Cohort study; Prenatal
15.  Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons–Aromatic DNA Adducts in Cord Blood and Behavior Scores in New York City Children 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2011;119(8):1176-1181.
Background: Airborne polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) are widespread urban pollutants that can bind to DNA to form PAH–DNA adducts. Prenatal PAH exposure measured by personal monitoring has been linked to cognitive deficits in childhood in a prospective study conducted by the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health.
Objectives: We measured PAH–DNA and other bulky aromatic adducts in umbilical cord white blood cells using the 32P-postlabeling assay to determine the association between this molecular dosimeter and behavioral/attention problems in childhood.
Methods: Children born to nonsmoking African-American and Dominican women residing in New York City (NYC) were followed from in utero to 7–8 years of age. At two time points before 8 years of age (mean ages, 4.8 years and 7 years), child behavior was assessed using the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL). To estimate and test the association between adducts and behavioral outcomes, both CBCL continuous raw scores and dichotomized T-scores were analyzed.
Results: Higher cord adducts were associated with higher symptom scores of Anxious/Depressed at 4.8 years and Attention Problems at 4.8 and 7 years, and with Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition–oriented Anxiety Problems at 4.8 years.
Conclusions: These results suggest that PAH exposure, measured by DNA adducts, may adversely affect child behavior, potentially affecting school performance.
PMCID: PMC3237340  PMID: 21486719
cord blood; DNA adducts; neurodevelopment; PAH; 32P-postlabeling
16.  Molecular epidemiologic research on the effects of environmental pollutants on the fetus. 
Environmental Health Perspectives  1999;107(Suppl 3):451-460.
Evidence shows that fetuses and infants are more affected than adults by a variety of environmental toxicants because of differential exposure, physiologic immaturity, and a longer lifetime over which disease initiated in early life can develop. In this article we review data on the effects of in utero exposure to common environmental contaminants, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), particulate matter and environmental tobacco smoke (ETS). We then summarize results from our molecular epidemiologic study to assess risks from in utero exposures to ambient air pollution and ETS. This research study, conducted in Poland, used biomarkers to measure the internal and bioeffective dose of toxicants and individual susceptibility factors. The study included 160 mothers and 160 newborns. Ambient air pollution was significantly associated (p= 0.05) with the amount of PAH bound to DNA (PAH-DNA adducts) in both maternal and infant cord white blood cells (WBC). Newborns with elevated PAH-DNA adducts (greater than the median) had significantly decreased birth weight (p= 0.05), birth length (p= 0.02), and head circumference (p= 0.0005) compared to the newborns with lower adducts (n= 135). Maternal and infant cotinine levels were increased by active and passive cigarette smoke exposure of the mother (p= 0.01). An inverse correlation was seen between newborn plasma cotinine (nanograms per milliliter) and birth weight (p= 0.0001) and length (p= 0.003). Adducts were elevated in placental tissue and WBC of newborns who were heterozygous or homozygous for the cytochrome P4501A1 MspI restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) compared to newborns without the RFLP. Levels of PAH-DNA and cotinine were higher in newborns than mothers. These results document that there is significant transplacental transfer of PAH and ETS constituents from mother to fetus; that PAH-DNA adduct levels in maternal and newborn WBC were increased with environmental exposure to PAH from ambient pollution; and that the fetus is more sensitive to genetic damage than the mother. The study also provided the first molecular evidence that transplacental PAH exposure to the fetus is compromising fetal development. If confirmed, these findings could have significant public health implications since a number of studies have found that reduction of head circumference at birth correlates with lower intelligence quotient as well as poorer cognitive functioning and school performance in childhood.
PMCID: PMC1566212  PMID: 10346993
17.  Light-Induced Cytotoxicity of 16 Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons on the US EPA Priority Pollutant List in Human Skin HaCaT Keratinocytes: Relationship Between Phototoxicity and Excited State Properties 
Environmental toxicology  2007;22(3):318-327.
The photocytotoxicity of 16 polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) on the priority pollutant list of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) were tested in human skin HaCaT keratinocytes. A selected PAH was mixed with HaCaT cells and irradiated with a solar simulator lamp for a dose equivalent to 5 min of outdoor sunlight and the cell viability was determined immediately and also after 24 h of incubation. For the cells without incubation after the treatments, it is found that all PAHs with three rings or less, except anthracene, are not photocytotoxic, while the four or five-ring PAHs (except chrysene), benz[a]anthracene, dibenzo[a,h]anthracene, benzo[ghi]perylene, benzo[a]pyrene, indeno[1,2,3-cd]pyrene, benzo[b]fluorenthene, fluorenthene, and pyrene, are photocytotoxic to the human skin HaCaT keratinocytes. If the cells were incubated for 24 h after the treatments, the photocytotoxic effect of the PAHs was greatly amplified in comparison to the nonincubated cells. For the 24 h incubated cells, all PAHs except naphthalene exhibit photocytotoxicity to some extent. Exposure to 5 μM of the 4- and 5-ring PAHs (except chrysene) and 3-ring anthracene more than 80% of the cells lose viability. The photocytotoxicity of the PAHs correlates well with several of their excited state properties: light absorption, excited singlet-state energy, excited triplet-state energy, and HOMO-LUMO energy gap. All the photocytotoxic PAHs absorb light at >300 nm, in the solar UVB and UVA region. There is a threshold for each of the three excited state descriptors of a photocytotoxic PAH: singlet energy <355 kJ/mol (corresponding to 337 nm light), triplet energy <230 kJ/mol (corresponding to 520 nm light), HOMO-LUMO gap <3.6 eV (corresponding to 344 nm light) obtained at the Density Functional Theory B3LYP/6-31G(d) level.
PMCID: PMC3764498  PMID: 17497637
polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs); phototoxicity; human skin keratinocytes; light absorption; excited state energy; HOMO–LUMO gap; DFT
18.  Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon exposure and pediatric asthma in children: a case–control study 
Environmental Health  2013;12:1.
Bronchial asthma is one of the most prevalent diseases in Arab children. Environmental pollution has been suggested to be considered causative of asthma, nasal symptoms and bronchitis in both children and adult. The objectives of this study were to evaluate the association between serum polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) levels, asthma and allergic outcomes among Saudi children aged up to 15 yrs. We hypothesized that increased serum PAHs are associated with allergy, asthma, or respiratory symptoms.
A total of 195 Saudi children (98 asthma pediatric patients and 97 healthy controls) were randomly selected from the Riyadh Cohort Study for inclusion. The diagnosis of Asthma was based on established pediatric diagnosis and medications taken.
Asthma related markers showed highly significant differences between children with and without asthma. Thus IgE, resistin and IL-4 were significantly increased (p 0.004, 0.001 and 0.003, respectively) in children with asthma compared with non-asthma control subjects. GMCSF, IFN-γ, IL-5, IL-8 and IL-10, on the other hand, were significantly decreased in children with asthma (p 0.003, 0.03, 0.001, 0.004 and 0.03, respectively). Strong associations between serum PAHs levels and biomarkers of childhood asthma were detected in Arabic children. Data confirmed the role of naphthalene, 4H-cyclobenta[def]phenanthrene, 1,2-benzanthracene, chrysene and benzo(e)acephenanthrylene in childhood asthma; levels of these PAHs were correlated with asthma related biomarkers including IgE, resistin, GMCSF and IFN-γ as well as IL-4, IL-5, IL-8 and IL-10 cytokines.
This data highlight the pivotal role of specific PAHs in childhood asthma.
PMCID: PMC3621697  PMID: 23286340
PAHs; Environmental pollution; Childhood asthma; Biomarkers
19.  Emissions of Parent, Nitro, and Oxygenated Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons from Residential Wood Combustion in Rural China 
Environmental science & technology  2012;46(15):8123-8130.
Residential wood combustion is one of the important sources of air pollution in developing countries. Among the pollutants emitted, parent polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (pPAHs) and their derivatives, including nitrated and oxygenated PAHs (nPAHs and oPAHs), are of concern because of their mutagenic and carcinogenic effects. In order to evaluate their impacts on regional air quality and human health, emission inventories, based on realistic emission factors (EFs), are needed. In this study, the EFs of 28 pPAHs (EFPAH28), 9 nPAHs (EFPAHn9) and 4 oPAHs (EFPAHo4) were measured for residential combustion of 27 wood fuels in rural China. The measured EFPAH28, EFPAHn9, and EFPAHo4 for brushwood were 86.7±67.6, 3.22±1.95×10−2, and 5.56±4.32 mg/kg, which were significantly higher than 12.7±7.0, 8.27±5.51×10−3, and 1.19±1.87 mg/kg for fuel wood combustion (p < 0.05). Sixteen U.S. EPA priority pPAHs contributed approximately 95% of the total of the 28 pPAHs measured. EFs of pPAHs, nPAHs, and oPAHs were positively correlated with one another. Measured EFs varied obviously depending on fuel properties and combustion conditions. The EFs of pPAHs, nPAHs, and oPAHs were significantly correlated with modified combustion efficiency and fuel moisture. Nitro-naphthalene and 9-fluorenone were the most abundant nPAHs and oPAHs identified. Both nPAHs and oPAHs showed relatively high tendencies to be present in the particulate phase than pPAHs due to their lower vapor pressures. The gas-particle partitioning of freshly emitted pPAHs, nPAHs and oPAHs was primarily controlled by organic carbon absorption.
PMCID: PMC3415380  PMID: 22765266
20.  Molecular and Neurodevelopmental Benefits to Children of Closure of a Coal Burning Power Plant in China 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e91966.
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) are major toxic air pollutants released during incomplete combustion of coal. PAH emissions are especially problematic in China because of their reliance on coal-powered energy. The prenatal period is a window of susceptibility to neurotoxicants. To determine the health benefits of reducing air pollution related to coal-burning, we compared molecular biomarkers of exposure and preclinical effects in umbilical cord blood to neurodevelopmental outcomes from two successive birth cohorts enrolled before and after a highly polluting, coal-fired power plant in Tongliang County, China had ceased operation. Women and their newborns in the two successive cohorts were enrolled at the time of delivery. We measured PAH-DNA adducts, a biomarker of PAH-exposure and DNA damage, and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein involved in neuronal growth, in umbilical cord blood. At age two, children were tested using the Gesell Developmental Schedules (GDS). The two cohorts were compared with respect to levels of both biomarkers in cord blood as well as developmental quotient (DQ) scores across 5 domains. Lower levels of PAH-DNA adducts, higher concentrations of the mature BDNF protein (mBDNF) and higher DQ scores were seen in the 2005 cohort enrolled after closure of the power plant. In the two cohorts combined, PAH-DNA adducts were inversely associated with mBDNF as well as scores for motor (p = 0.05), adaptive (p = 0.022), and average (p = 0.014) DQ. BDNF levels were positively associated with motor (p = 0.018), social (p = 0.001), and average (p = 0.017) DQ scores. The findings indicate that the closure of a coal-burning plant resulted in the reduction of PAH-DNA adducts in newborns and increased mBDNF levels that in turn, were positively associated with neurocognitive development. They provide further evidence of the direct benefits to children's health as a result of the coal plant shut down, supporting clean energy and environmental policies in China and elsewhere.
PMCID: PMC3960155  PMID: 24647528
21.  Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon (PAH) Exposure and DNA Adduct Semi-Quantitation in Archived Human Tissues 
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are combustion products of organic materials, mixtures of which contain multiple known and probable human carcinogens. PAHs occur in indoor and outdoor air, as well as in char-broiled meats and fish. Human exposure to PAHs occurs by inhalation, ingestion and topical absorption, and subsequently formed metabolites are either rendered hydrophilic and excreted, or bioactivated and bound to cellular macromolecules. The formation of PAH-DNA adducts (DNA binding products), considered a necessary step in PAH-initiated carcinogenesis, has been widely studied in experimental models and has been documented in human tissues. This review describes immunohistochemistry (IHC) studies, which reveal localization of PAH-DNA adducts in human tissues, and semi-quantify PAH-DNA adduct levels using the Automated Cellular Imaging System (ACIS). These studies have shown that PAH-DNA adducts concentrate in: basal and supra-basal epithelium of the esophagus, cervix and vulva; glandular epithelium of the prostate; and cytotrophoblast cells and syncitiotrophoblast knots of the placenta. The IHC photomicrographs reveal the ubiquitous nature of PAH-DNA adduct formation in human tissues as well as PAH-DNA adduct accumulation in specific, vulnerable, cell types. This semi-quantative method for PAH-DNA adduct measurement could potentially see widespread use in molecular epidemiology studies.
PMCID: PMC3155323  PMID: 21845152
DNA damage; human tissues; immunohistochemistry; immunoassay; PAH-DNA adducts; semi-quantitation; molecular epidemiology
Particulate matter less than 10 μm (PM10) has been shown to be associated with aggravation of asthma and respiratory and cardiopulmonary morbidity. There is also great interest in the potential health effects of PM 2.5. Particulate matter (PM) varies in composition both spatially and temporally depending on the source, location and seasonal condition. El Paso County which lies in the Paso del Norte airshed is a unique location to study ambient air pollution due to three major points: the geological land formation, the relatively large population and the various sources of PM. In this study, dichotomous filters were collected from various sites in El Paso County every seven days for a period of one year. The sampling sites were both distant and near border crossings, which are near heavily populated areas with high traffic volume. Fine (PM2.5) and Coarse (PM10-2.5) PM filter samples were extracted using dichloromethane and were assessed for biologic activity and polycyclic aromatic (PAH) content. Three sets of marker genes human BEAS2B bronchial epithelial cells were utilized to assess the effects of airborne PAHs on biologic activities associated with specific biological pathways associated with airway diseases. These pathways included in inflammatory cytokine production (IL-6, IL-8), oxidative stress (HMOX-1, NQO-1, ALDH3A1, AKR1C1), and aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR)-dependent signaling (CYP1A1). Results demonstrated interesting temporal and spatial patterns of gene induction for all pathways, particularly those associated with oxidative stress, and significant differences in the PAHs detected in the PM10-2.5 and PM 2.5 fractions. Temporally, the greatest effects on gene induction were observed in winter months, which appeared to correlate with inversions that are common in the air basin. Spatially, the greatest gene expression increases were seen in extracts collected from the central most areas of El Paso which are also closest to highways and border crossings.
PMCID: PMC2717704  PMID: 19410595
asthma; lung oxidative stress; PM; polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; border air samples
23.  Early-life cockroach allergen and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon exposures predict cockroach sensitization among inner-city children 
Sensitization to cockroach is one of the strongest identified risk factors for greater asthma morbidity in low-income, urban communities; however, the timing of exposures relevant to development of sensitization has not been elucidated fully. Further, exposure to combustion byproducts, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), may augment the development of allergic sensitization.
To test the hypotheses that domestic cockroach allergen measured prenatally would predict cockroach sensitization in early childhood, and that this association would be greater for children exposed to higher concentrations of PAHs.
Dominican and African-American pregnant women living in NYC were enrolled. In the third trimester, expectant mothers wore personal air samplers for measurement of 8 nonvolatile PAHs and the semi-volatile PAH pyrene, and dust was collected from homes for allergen measurement. Glutathione-s-transferase mu (GSTM1) gene polymorphisms were measured in children. Allergen-specific IgE was measured from the children at ages 2, 3, 5 and 7 years.
Bla g2 in prenatal kitchen dust predicted cockroach sensitization at age 5–7 years [adjusted relative risk (RR) 1.15; P = 0.001; n = 349]. The association was observed only among children above [RR 1.22; P = 0.001], but not below [RR 1.07; P = 0.24] median sum of 8 nonvolatile PAH levels. The association was most pronounced among children with higher PAH and null in the GSTM1 gene [RR 1.54; P = 0.001].
Prenatal exposure to cockroach allergen was associated with a greater risk of developing allergic sensitization. This risk was increased by exposure to nonvolatile PAHs, with children null for the GSTM1 mutation particularly vulnerable.
Key messages
Domestic exposure to cockroach allergen measured prenatally predicted sensitization to cockroach at age 5–7 years.
Cockroach allergen predicted sensitization only among children also exposed to higher levels of airborne non-volatile polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, indicating that these combustion byproducts may act as adjuvants in the development of cockroach sensitization in urban environments.
These findings suggest that targeting either allergen or combustion sources with primary prevention could be successful in reducing the development of cockroach sensitization.
PMCID: PMC3678290  PMID: 23391330
Bla g2; cockroach; polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon; IgE; allergy; inner-city; GSTM; GSTP
24.  Effects of Prenatal Exposure to Coal-Burning Pollutants on Children’s Development in China 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2008;116(5):674-679.
Environmental pollutants such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), lead, and mercury are released by combustion of coal and other fossil fuels.
In the present study we evaluated the association between prenatal exposure to these pollutants and child development measured by the Gesell Developmental Schedules at 2 years of age.
The study was conducted in Tongliang, Chongqing, China, where a seasonally operated coal-fired power plant was the major source of ambient PAHs and also contributed lead and mercury to the air. In a cohort of nonsmoking women and their newborns enrolled between March 2002 and June 2002, we measured levels of PAH–DNA adducts, lead, and mercury in umbilical cord blood. PAH–DNA adducts (specifically benzo[a]pyrene adducts) provided a biologically relevant measure of PAH exposure. We also obtained developmental quotients (DQs) in motor, adaptive, language, and social areas.
Decrements in one or more DQs were significantly associated with cord blood levels of PAH–DNA adducts and lead, but not mercury. Increased adduct levels were associated with decreased motor area DQ (p = 0.043), language area DQ (p = 0.059), and average DQ (p = 0.047) after adjusting for cord lead level, environmental tobacco smoke, sex, gestational age, and maternal education. In the same model, high cord blood lead level was significantly associated with decreased social area DQ (p = 0.009) and average DQ (p = 0.038).
The findings indicate that exposure to pollutants from the power plant adversely affected the development of children living in Tongliang; these findings have implications for environmental health policy.
PMCID: PMC2367664  PMID: 18470301
China; coal burning; lead; mercury; neurodevelopment; PAH–DNA adducts; prenatal
25.  Gene-environment interactions on mental development in African American, Dominican, and Caucasian Mothers and Newborns 
Annals of human genetics  2009;74(1):46-56.
The health impact of environmental toxins has gained increasing recognition over the years. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) are known to affect nervous system development in children, but no studies have investigated how polymorphisms in PAH metabolic or detoxification genes affect child cognitive development following PAH exposure during pregnancy. In two parallel prospective cohort studies of nonsmoking African American and Dominican mothers and children in New York City and of Caucasian mothers and children in Krakow, Poland, we explored the effect of gene-PAH interaction on child mental development index (MDI), as measured by the Bayley Scales of Infant Development-Revised (BSID-II). Genes known to play important roles in the metabolic activation or detoxification of PAHs were selected. Genetic variations in these genes could influence susceptibility to adverse effects of PAHs in polluted air. We explored the effects of interactions between prenatal PAH exposure and 21 polymorphisms or haplotypes in these genes on MDI at 12, 24, and 36 months among 547 newborns and 806 mothers from three different ethnic groups: African Americans, Dominicans, and Caucasians. PAHs were measured by personal air monitoring of mothers during pregnancy. Significant interaction effects between haplotypes and PAHs were observed in mothers and their newborns in all three ethnic groups after Bonferroni correction for multiple comparisons. The strongest and most consistent effect observed was between PAH and haplotype ACCGGC of the CYP1B1 gene.
PMCID: PMC2804781  PMID: 19860743

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