Animal Aid

Mad Science 2006 : Air pollution is not good for rats either


The negative health consequences of breathing polluted air have already been well documented through human population studies. Nevertheless, scientists at Cardiff University received Home Office approval to determine just how poisonous city pollution can be - to rats.

Fifteen rats were lightly anaesthetised before receiving a dose of a specially prepared pollutant, which was administered directly into their windpipes - a traumatic and invasive experience. The animals were allowed to recover from the procedure for observation and then killed three days later, by lethal injection.

Lung tissue samples revealed mild damage consistent with what is already well established in the medical literature on this subject. The only novelty of this experiment was an attempt by the researchers to study how affected cells in the lungs mobilise specific genes in response to the effects of the pollution.

This experiment could have been done using donated human lung tissue - from people who have spent many years living in big cities - obtained either as surgical waste, or from post mortem examinations. Then it would have provided data that was applicable to human health.

Ref. Wise W, Balharry D, Reynolds LJ, Sexton K, Richards RJ. Science of the Total Environment 2006; 360:60-67. ‘Conventional and toxicogenomic assessment of the acute pulmonary damage induced by the instillation of Cardiff PM10 into the rat lung.’

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