Air-freshener chemicals may lead to cancerous cells
Common household chemicals such as those used for moth repellents and air fresheners may be harmful because they can change normal cells into ones that could become cancerous, a study has found.
The chemicals, naphthalene and para-dichlorobenzene, are used in mothballs and air freshener such as those found in urinals. More than 1 million pounds of the chemicals are used annually, said the study in Nature Chemical Biology posted online today.
After treating microscopic worms with the chemicals, scientists at the University of Colorado and Baylor College of Medicine in Houston discovered that enzymes necessary for the cycle of cellular life and death had been blocked, the study said.
The suppression of the enzymes that are essential for regulating normal cell death may be a way these chemicals help spur cancer growth by preventing that normal process, which can also act as a check on tumor cells, the study said.
“Understanding the mechanisms by which chemicals may help trigger tumor growth is very important for adopting the appropriate regulations to limit human exposure to hazardous chemicals,” wrote Ding Xue, an associate professor in the molecular, cellular and developmental biology department at CU, in an e-mail Thursday.
The chemicals have long been thought of as carcinogens, or cancer-causing agents, though no apparent genetic damage was found in previous tests.
An outgrowth of the study was that researchers devised a way to potentially use the microscopic worm to screen drugs or cancer-causing agents, a much cheaper method than using rats, Xue wrote.
Thursday, May 18, 2006