Chemicals in Environment May Cause Gene Mutation

A Medical School research associate is investigating how certain chemicals used in pesticides, food additives, starches, shampoos, and fireproof and crease-proof fabrics may cause genetic mutations in mice and possibly in humans.

When the chemicals were injected into male rats, their offspring showed a high rate of embryonic death, said Dr Samuel S. Epstein, research associate in Pathology and Chief of the Laboratories of Environmental Pathology and Carcinogenesis at the Children's Cancer Research Foundation.

Prenatal death of the treated mice's offspring indicates chromosome damage caused by the injected chemicals, Epstein explained.

Epstein believes that the data from his tests with mice "may be appropriately extrapolated to man." He recommended that this and other tests for chemically-caused mutations should be used for safety evaluation of chemicals to which man is exposed.

"Chemical mutagens in the environment pose potential hazards which have not yet been systematically explored," Epstein said Sunday at the 60th annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in San Francisco.