Pollution Is Making Us Age Faster

Our environment exposes us to a long list of pollutants from UV rays to ozone, and from cigarette smoke to industrial chemicals and other hazards. This constant exposure increases risk for our bodies to produce free-radicals, damaging our DNA and tissues. According to a new study, this DNA damage can increase how fast we age. (1)

Mice Show Possible Tie Between Pollution And Aging

The study team created genetically-modified mice using a DNA-repair protein missing from their hematopoietic stem cells. As a result, the mice couldn’t repair damaged DNA in their immune cells. “By the time the genetically-modified mouse is 5 months old, it’s like a 2-year-old mouse,” says researcher Eric E. Kelley, associate professor, and associate chair of research in the School of Medicine’s Department of Physiology and Pharmacology. “It has all the symptoms and physical characteristics. It has hearing loss, osteoporosis, renal dysfunction, visual impairment, hypertension, as well as other age-related issues. It’s prematurely aged just because it has lost its ability to repair its DNA.” The findings could point to unrepaired DNA damage possibly causing the entire body to age prematurely. (1)

Lifestyle Choices Increase Exposure To Pollution And Aging

Pollutants like radiation for cancer treatment transfers energy to the water in our bodies so it breaks apart. When the water breaks apart, it creates free radicals, highly reactive molecules that interact with other molecules, gaining electrons. When interaction occurs with protein or DNA, these important biomolecules are damaged, so they no longer work properly. Although we can’t avoid exposure to pollutants altogether, certain lifestyle choices such as smoking, drinking, or working in a hazardous environment increase exposure to pollution. As a result we increase free radicals in our bodies. “A cigarette has over 10 to the 16th free radicals per puff, just from combusted carbon materials,” says Kelley. (1)

Free Radicals, Pollution And Aging

Free radicals are also produced by our bodies when we turn food into energy. “We have mechanisms in the mitochondria that mop free radicals up for us, but if they become overwhelmed — if we have over-nutrition, if we eat too much junk, if we smoke — the defense mechanism absolutely cannot keep up,” explains Kelley. As we get older, it becomes more difficult to counter damage related to free-radical formation. This is because eventually, our antioxidant defenses decrease allowing the damage to be more dominant than the repairs. The more pollutants we are exposed to the more free radicals we accumulate, and the dominance of free radicals takes hold sooner. The result is premature aging. (1)

Pollution And Aging In West Virginia

Risk is even higher in areas such as West Virginia where the greatest percentage of obese citizens reside. This area also has a higher rate of smokers and people working in occupations with higher exposure to pollutants. “I come from an Appalachian background,” says Kelley. “And, you know, I’d go to funerals that were in some old house — an in-the-living-room-with-a-casket kind of deal — and I’d look at people in there, and they’d be 39 or 42 and look like they were 80 because of their occupation and their nutrition.” (1)

Kelley believes the answer to premature aging lies in preventative measures as opposed to medication such as senolytics. When we live healthier lifestyles, we can improve the outcome for each comorbidity and enjoy healthier years throughout our lives. (1)

“The impact is less on lifespan and more on healthspan,” says Kelley. “If you could get people better access to healthcare, better education, easier ways for them to participate in healthier eating and a healthier lifestyle, then you could improve the overall economic burden on the population of West Virginia and have a much better outcome all the way around.” (1)

If you would like to help reduce free radicals in your body, click here to access our free Toxic Ingredients Guide. 


  1. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/06/210621160520.htm 

Similar Posts