Tecnológico de MonterreyEnvironmental pollution and its effects on our health

Environmental pollution and its effects on our health

Environmental pollution and its effects on our health

In recent times, there has been evidence of a relationship between air pollution and cardiovascular diseases, metabolic disorders, and neurological damage or even some types of cancer. What options do we have to reduce this impact on health?

By José Ascención Hernández Hernández
Article of dissemination

“Environmental pollution has become an imminent threat to public health.  Poor-quality air is spreading over our city and the particles are destroying lives,” was the remark of a TV reporter, when the levels of pollution allowed by the environmental norm were exceeded in our city for several days.

According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO), Monterrey N.L. ranks first in air pollution among Latin American countries. Most of the sources of air pollution in our city have been associated with industrial activity, the use of motor vehicles, or simply, the extraction of stone materials from nearby mountains.

Emission sources are capable of generating thousands of tons of particles of different sizes and composition over time. Thus, they can produce particles smaller (PM) than 10 microns (PM10) or smaller than 2.5 microns (PM 2.5) or even smaller.

Why are these particles dangerous?

One of the properties that make them dangerous is their ability to penetrate the lung since smaller particles will reach deeper sites in the lung (alveoli) and increase the possibility of causing direct damage to this organ, as well as reaching other sites in the body. Another property, and perhaps even more relevant, is the chemical type of the contaminant or group of contaminants contained in the particles since they can damage organs in different ways.

Taking these factors into account, it is easy to understand why in different parts of the world a relationship between air pollution and different diseases has been proven. Some of these are related to lung function such as asthma, cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks and hypertension, metabolic disorders such as obesity and diabetes, or more serious and rapidly progressive conditions such as neurological damage or some types of cancer.

It is estimated that the social cost, in our city, caused by environmental pollution in general and not only by air pollution, affects about 5000 people a year, causing or accelerating their premature death due to various diseases, in addition to the cost of medical service and treatment.

We cannot stop breathing, feeding ourselves or drinking water, so in addition to the people affected and who unfortunately will die, there is an equal or greater number of people who are in different stages of development of the disease, without any obvious medical manifestation, and who can be intervened before their health worsens.

Biomedicine as a solution to contamination

The solution to environmental pollution seems to be obvious and consists of eliminating the sources of emissions, however, this is not only difficult but almost impossible in the short term. So, what can we do to reduce the impact on our health? One option is that, from the perspective of biomedical research, the social appropriation of science is promoted so that solutions or care strategies emerge, while the emission of pollutants is reduced. To do so, it is important to understand the changes in cellular functioning and sensitivity caused by exposure to pollutants and other xenobiotics before the onset of the disease. This would allow us to prevent its development.

To this end, a multidisciplinary approach was established at Tec de Monterrey’s School of Medicine and Health Sciences, including clinical and basic researchers from the strategic focus groups on Cancer Research and Human Genetics, as well as external national and international collaborators to work jointly.

To support these activities, the National Laboratory of Systems Medicine (LANMEDS-CONACYT) was proposed and created, and with the leadership of Drs. Rocio Ortiz López and Augusto Rojas Martínez, biomedical research has been strengthened with the aim of understanding the physio-pathological processes of these diseases in our locality, so that solutions can be generated to improve our population’s health.

Current research projects not only focus on studying the effects of air pollutants but include other substances with incidental or accidental exposure that are very common in our environment. The research includes the effects of alcohol and substance abuse on prenatal development, the use of cigarettes as a cause of addiction and lung cancer, modifiers of the endocrine system, the effects of drugs and beauty products on diseases of high prevalence in our community such as diabetes, obesity, and cancer.

About the researchers

Dr. José Ascención Hernández. Doctor of Science with a specialization in Pharmacology (CINVESTAV-IPN), Specialist in Metabolomics by the University of Birmingham UK, Research Professor in the Strategic Focus Group on Cancer Research. Member of the National System of Researchers Level 1. j.a.hernandez@tec.mx

Dra. Rocío Ortiz López. Doctor of Science with a specialization in Molecular Biology and Genetic Engineering (UANL), Leader and Research Professor in the Strategic Focus Group on Cancer Research. Member of the National System of Researchers Level 3. rortizl@tec.mx

Dr. Augusto Rojas Martínez. Doctor of Science with a specialization in Molecular Biology and Genetic Engineering (UANL), Leader and Research Professor in the Strategic Focus Group on Human Genetics Research. Member of the National System of Researchers Level 3. augusto.rojasmtz@tec.mx

To learn more

Gasca-Sanchez FM, Santos-Guzman J, Elizondo-Dueñaz R, Mejia-Velazquez GM, Ruiz-Pacheco C, Reyes-Rodriguez D, Vazquez-Camacho E, Hernandez-Hernandez JA, Lopez-Sanchez RDC, Ortiz-Lopez R, Olvera-Posada D, Rojas-Martinez A. (2019) Spatial Clusters of Children with Cleft Lip and Palate and Their Association with Polluted Zones in the Monterrey Metropolitan Area. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Jul 12;16(14). pii: E2488. doi: 10.3390/ijerph26142488.

Jesús Santos-Guzmán, Claudia Madrigal-Ávila, José Ascención Hernández- Hernández, Gerardo Mejía-Velázquez, Irma Elisa Eraña-Rojas, Leticia Elizondo-Montemayor, Luis Villela, (2014) Una década de monitoreo de plomo en sangre en niños escolares del área metropolitana de Monterrey, NL Salud Pública de México, [S.l.], v. 56, n. 6, p. 592-602, ISSN 1606-7916. Available at: <http://saludpublica.mx/index.php/spm/article/view/7385/10505>. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.21149/spm.v56i6.7385.

Hernández, J. A., López-Sánchez, R. C., & Rendón-Ramírez, A. (2016). Lipids and Oxidative Stress Associated with Ethanol-Induced Neurological Damage. Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity, 2016, 1543809. doi:10.1155/2016/1543809

Wei, Y., Zhang, J., Li, Z., Gow, A., Chung, K. F., Hu, M., Sun, Z., Zeng, L., Zhu, T., Jia, G., Li, X., Duarte, M., Tang, X. (2016) Chronic exposure to air pollution particles increases the risk of obesity and metabolic syndrome: findings from a natural experiment in Beijing. FASEB J. 30, 2115–2122. www.fasebj.org

Rosa del Carmen Lopez-Sanchez, Victor Javier Lara-Diaz, Alejandro Aranda-Gutierrez, Jorge A. Martinez-Cardona, and Jose A. Hernandez, (2018), HPLC Method for Quantification of Caffeine and Its Three Major Metabolites in Human Plasma Using Fetal Bovine Serum Matrix to Evaluate Prenatal Drug Exposure, Journal of Analytical Methods in Chemistry, Volume 2018, Article ID 2085059, https://doi.org/10.1155/2018/2085059

Dean E. Schraufnagel, John R. Balmes, Clayton T. Cowl, Sara De Matteis, Soon-Hee Jung, Kevin Mortimer, BChir, Rogelio Perez-Padilla, Mary B. Rice, Horacio Riojas-Rodriguez, Akshay Sood,  George D. Thurston, Teresa To, Anessa Vanker, and Donald J. Wuebbles,  (2019), Air Pollution and Noncommunicable Diseases, A Review by the Forum of International Respiratory Societies’ Environmental Committee, Part 2: Air Pollution and Organ Systems, CHEST; 155(2):417-426

Mala calidad del aire: http://www.info7.mx/locales/contaminacion-mas-grave-que-en-la-cdmx-respira-nl-aire-envenenado/2528398 accessed on September 30, 2019.

Brought to you by