Prolonged exposure to coarse particles of air pollutants trigger inflammation and cause the progression of cancer-related genes, a breakthrough study at Cedars-Sinai suggests.

Previous research has linked air pollution to a number of diseases including cancer. The latest findings showed that nickel particles in Los Angeles's heavily polluted air can alter genes related to disease development.

"This study, which looked at novel data gathered in the Los Angeles area, has significant implications for the assessment of air quality in the region, particularly as people are exposed to air pollution here for decades," said lead author Dr. Julia Ljubimova, the director of the Nanomedicine Research Center at Cedars-Sinai.

The authors found that coarse particulate matter in the Los Angeles Basin is absorbed into the body in two ways. First is by inhalation through the lungs, where metal particles enter the bloodstream to the brain. The other way is through the nose, where trace metals enter faster to the brain.

Although the study is focused only in the Los Angeles Basin, Ljubimova said it could provide an insight on the potentially damaging effects of air pollution in major cities.

William Burke, chairman of the South Coast Air Quality Management District, said it has been a long difficult task to clean the air in Los Angeles, but their agency supports research that determines how air pollution affects human health.

The study was published April 9 in the journal Scientific Reports.

Top Polluted Cities

Last month, the American Lung Association's State of the Air report named eight California cities as among the top polluted ones in the United States.

The Los Angeles-Long Beach area is hailed as the most ozone-polluted city for 19 consecutive years. Seven other California cities made it to the list, namely Bakersfield, Visalia-Porterville-Hanford, Fresno-Madera, Sacramento-Roseville, San Diego-Carlsbad, Modesto-Merced, and Redding-Red Bluff.

This translates to 133.9 million or four in 10 Americans living in places with unhealthy levels of particle pollution for the period of 2014 to 2016. Individuals in these counties are at risk for lung cancer, asthma, cardiovascular diseases, as well as developmental and reproductive damage.

"Far too many Americans are living with unhealthy air, placing their health and lives at risk. The 'State of the Air' report should serve as a wake-up call for residents and representatives alike. Everyone deserves to breathe healthy air, and we must do more to protect the air we breathe by upholding and enforcing the Clean Air Act," said Harold Wimmer, CEO and national president of American Lung Association.

Legislative Actions Against Air Pollution

In 2017, the California Air Resources approved a proposal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, thereby improving overall air quality and public health. The board estimated that the state could save up to $11 billion worth of environmental damage from carbon emissions by 2030.

The plan pushes for more clean cars and trucks, support for renewable energy, cleaner fuels, smart community planning, and innovative programs for agriculture and forests.

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