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Mutagens and Teratogens

Can You Say Mutagen and Teratogen?

— Probably not without risk of mispronunciation,

which, though neither contagious nor necessarily a

permanent condition, can damage your reputation.

Some common mutagenic and teratogenic chemicals

A to Z include: Acrylonitrates, aniline, anesthetic

gases, arsenic compounds, benzene, benzo-

(a)pyrene, beryllium, boron (boric acid), cadmium,

carbon monoxide, chlordicone, chloro-form, chloroprene,

dichloromethane, epichloro-hydrin, ethylene

oxide, formaldehyde (formalin), hexachlorobenzene,

lead (organic/ in-organic), methyl ethyl ketone,

monomethylforma-mide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone,

selenium & compounds, thallium, toluene, vinyl

chloride and xylene.

[Philippine Daily Inquirer 2006]

MUTAGEN ( myüt. j n) : An agent (toxin,

radiation, virus,) capable of causing mutation (a

relatively permanent change in DNA, the hereditary


The amount of damage caused by a mutagen

depends on three factors: (1) chemical reactivity

between DNA and the mutagen, (2) the

concentration or dose of the mutagen, & (3) length

of exposure time of DNA to mutagen.1 Damage and

repair to DNA are constantly occurring; but when

the damage isn’t repaired the result can be cancer

or cell death. Also, genetic diseases such as cystic

fibrosis and sickle cell disease can be caused by a

single DNA mutation in one gene.2 And we just can’t

seem to choreograph the DNA-repair part of this

dance. This sounds incredibly ominous to me!

Where to find a mutagen: I hate to be the bearer

of such bad news, but mutagens are everywhere!

There are many hundreds of chemicals known to

be mutagens. For example, diesel exhaust contains

the extremely potent mutagen 3-nitrobenzanthrone.3

If you can get anywhere without sucking down some

3-nitrobenzanthrone, you’ve had a good day. I

would suggest a refreshing wilderness foray.

1 Microbial Genetics 2002

2 [http://www.bookrags.com/sciences/genetics/dna-repair-gen-]

3 The Institute of Cancer Research

TERATOGEN (t rat. j n) An environmental

agent that causes harm (developmental

malformations) or death to the developing embryo.

Alcohol is a well-known teratogen. For an enormous

list of known and suspected teratogens [really!—go

look at it. Denial doesn’t make the list smaller or

make it go away, and it won’t make life any less

toxic!]: http://physchem.ox.ac.uk/MSDS/teratogens.html

How do they work?: Teratogenic agents include

infectious agents (e.g. syphilis, rubella), physical

agents (e.g. ionizing agents, extremely high fever),

maternal health factors (e.g. diabetes, PKU),

environmental chemicals (e.g. PCB’s, pesticides,

solvents), and drugs (prescription, over-the-counter,

and “recreational”). So it appears that if you eat

organic food and live in a bubble, you’ll be

somewhat protected from teratogens!

The severity of the damage and the defect that

occurs are the result of the dose and the timing (in

terms of fetal development) of exposure to a

particular agent, and genetic susceptibility of

embryo and mother.4

But remember, teratogens are agents that cause

fetal injury when a pregnant woman is exposed to

them. You could say that if you are not a pregnant

woman, it’s not your problem. Whew! Does that ever

let a lot of us off the hook! Or does it?

Source by Cathy Verret

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