Hydrothermal areas are potentially hazardous to humans as volcanic gases such as radon (222Rn) are continuously released from soil diffuse degassing. Exposure to radon is estimated to be the second leading cause of lung cancer, but little is known about radon health-associated risks in hydrothermal regions. This cross-sectional study was designed to evaluate the DNA damage in the buccal epithelial cells of individuals chronically exposed to indoor radon in a volcanic area (Furnas volcano, Azores, Portugal) with a hydrothermal system. Buccal epithelial cells were collected from 33 individuals inhabiting the hydrothermal area (Ribeira Quente village) and from 49 individuals inhabiting a non-hydrothermal area (Ponta Delgada city). Indoor radon was measured with Ramon 2.2 detectors. Chromosome damage was measured by micronucleus cytome assay, and RAPD-PCR was used as a complementary tool to evaluate DNA damage, using three 10-mer primers (D11, F1 and F12). Indoor radon concentration correlated positively with the frequency of micronucleated cells (r s = 0.325, p = 0.003). Exposure to radon is a risk factor for the occurrence micronucleated cells in the inhabitants of the hydrothermal area (RR = 1.71; 95% CI, 1.2–2.4; p = 0.003). One RAPD-PCR primer (F12) produced differences in the banding pattern, a fact that can indicate its potential for detecting radon-induced specific genomic alterations. The observed association between chronic exposure to indoor radon and the occurrence of chromosome damage in human oral epithelial cells evidences the usefulness of biological surveillance to assess mutations involved in pre-carcinogenesis in hydrothermal areas, reinforcing the need for further studies with human populations living in these areas.
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The authors thank Fátima Viveiros and Paulo Melo for their support in field and laboratory work. Diana Linhares and Nadya Kazachkova were supported, respectively, by Ph.D. and postdoc fellowships from the Fundo Regional da Ciência (Regional Government of the Azores) (PROEMPREGO Programme) (M3.1.2/F/019/2011 and M3.1.7/F/002/2008). The authors also thank the financial support of BioAir-Biomonitoring air pollution: development of an integrated system (M2.1.2/F/00872011) from Fundo Regional da Ciência (Regional Government of the Azores) (PROEMPREGO Programme).
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Linhares, D.P.S., Garcia, P.V., Silva, C. et al. DNA damage in oral epithelial cells of individuals chronically exposed to indoor radon (222Rn) in a hydrothermal area. Environ Geochem Health 40, 1713–1724 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10653-016-9893-2