Mutagenic and carcinogenic significance and the possible induction of lung cancer by nitro aromatic hydrocarbons in particulate pollutants

H. Tokiwa, N. Sera, A. Nakashima, K. Nakashima, Y. Nakanishi, N. Shigematu

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33 Citations (Scopus)


Studies of genotoxicity and carcinogenicity of nitro aromatic hydrocarbons focus on their high mutagenicity for bacteria and mammalian cells. Nitrobenzo[a]pyrenes (NBPs) and related nitroazaarenes also are extraordinarily mutagenic. 3-Nitro-6-azabenzo[a]pyren-N-oxide was found to be a more potent mutagen than 1,8-dinitropyrene. Mutagenicity of NBPs was associated with the position of substitution of the nitro function when nitrogen dioxide (NO2) was substituted at the third position on the benzo[a]pyrene (BP) structure, as in 3,6-dinitrobenzo[a]pyrene but not in 1,6-diNBP. The NBPs were reduced by a rat liver postmitochondrial fraction to nitroso- and subsequently to amino-derivatives. Therefore, tumoral action in rats was induced at significant levels by subcutaneous injection of 3,6-diNBP, but no tumors were observed in rats given 1,6-diNBP. Carcinogenic nitropyrenes were detected in the resected lung of a patient with lung cancer. It is suggested that the presence of nitropyrenes and the resulting tumor were due to exposure to by-products of combustion of heavy oil. The patient was a nonsmoker and farmer who had bred chickens for 40 years. He used heavy oil for heating the chicken house. Similarly, a group of Chinese people at high risk of developing lung cancer was selected to determine the initiator of lung cancer. Lung cancers were obtained from six Chinese female nonsmokers who were living in Fuyuan County, China. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons were detected in resected lung specimens; they were benzo[k]fluoranthene, BP, benzo[g,h,i]perylene, and pyrene. These cases were associated with exposure to soot from combustion of coal usually used for heating and cooking indoors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-110
Number of pages4
JournalEnvironmental Health Perspectives
Issue numberSUPPL. 4
Publication statusPublished - 1994

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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