Chemical Found In Natural Gas Causes Cancer At Cellular Level

New research identifies a chemical found in natural gas that causes cancer at the cellular level is the same chemcial found in cigarette smoke. The excitement about this new finding is directed towards cigarette smoking. Unfortunately, natural gas delivers the same chemical pollutant and the combustion by-products from natural gas may even be worse.

Excerpts from WSJ October 18, 1996 pg. B1 By Jerry E. Bishop and Milo Geyelin Staff Reporters of THE: WALL STREET JOURNAL

Two teams of scientists say they have shown precisely how, at the molecular level, a chemical in cigarette smoke can damage a gene that otherwise prevents the haywire cell growth that is the hallmark of cancer.

"It's an exciting finding," said Kenneth Olden, director of the federal National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Research Triangle Park, N.C. "Much of the evidence we have that smoking causes lung cancer is circumstantial, although extremely strong. It's really good to have some more definitive [laboratory] evidence to support it," said Dr. Olden, who read the report yesterday.

The test-tube experiments showed that the tar chemical, benzo(a)pyrene, can grab onto and damage a so-called tumor suppressor gene in lung cells. The gene normally holds the reproduction of the lung cells in check and as long as it's functioning, the cells can't indulge in the malignancy, or uncontrolled growth, that defines lung cancer. Damage to the gene however, releases the cells' emergency brake, letting them become malignant.

"Our study thus provides a direct link between a defined cigarette smoke carcinogen and human cancer mutations," reported biochemist Moon-Shon Tang and colleagues at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. The Houston experiments were repeated and confirmed by Gerd P. Pfeifer and a team at the City of Hope hospital in Duarte, Calif. The two research teams reported their results in this week's issue of the prominent journal Science.

In the late 1980s, researchers at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in Baltimore discovered that one normal gene, P53, is a tumor suppressor, regulating cell division and keeping it from getting out of control. Researchers have since found damaged versions of the P53 gene in many cancers.

In their report, Dr. Tang and his colleagues note that "about 60% of human lung cancers contain mutations in the P53 tumor suppressor gene." Moreover, most of the mutations seen in the lung cancers occur in three specific "hot spots" on the gene, the researchers found, and one spot in particular is specific to lung cancer and doesn't occur in another form of the disease, they said.

In their experiments, the Texas and California researchers used a chemical that the body creates from exposure to benzo(a)pyrene. They showed that this second chemical latches onto the same mutational hot spots in the P53 gene that are seen in lung cancer victims. This "coincidence ... suggests" that benzo(a)pyrene is involved in transforming normal cells into malignant ones, the researchers said.

End of quote.

Natural Gas Contains Benzo-a-pyrene

Benzo-a-pyrene occurs naturally in natural gas pulled out of the ground and is passed directly onto the consumer. One industry insider admitted, "We classify benzo-a-pyrene as SOOT - that way it doesn't sound so bad and won't raise any red flags."

With the above new findings showing benzo-a-pyrene inhibits the P53 gene - we now have a direct correlation to natural gas. California's PROP 65 Gas Warning that natural gas contains chemicals . . . . known to the State to cause cancer, birth defects and reproductive harm lists Benz-a-pyrene as one of those chemicals.

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