Lingering asbestos pollution from a former manufacturing plant in northern Israel continues to damage the DNA of wild mice, according to a study published online March 8 in Environmental Science Pollution Research International by researchers at the University of Haifa.
The plant in Naharia, Israel has been closed since 1997, but asbestos particulates take a long time to degrade, scientists have learned, and can still be found in the surrounding soil. Correspondingly, data recently obtained by the Israeli Ministry of Health showed a rise in asbestos-related cancers in the area—a known consequence of asbestos inhalation or ingestion. In the new study, researchers examined mice living near the facility, and found they have more mutations in their somatic cells than mice from an unpolluted area 30 miles away.
“This study [of wild mice] clearly indicates that there is a link between the higher levels of asbestos in the environment and the frequency of genetic somatic mutations in the mammals,” the scientists said in a press release.