Telomere shortening in women resident close to waste landfill sites

Gene. 2012 May 25;500(1):101-6. doi: 10.1016/j.gene.2012.03.040. Epub 2012 Mar 20.


Several studies demonstrate links between environmental stress and index of reduced health, including risk factors for cardiovascular disease, reduced immune function and cancer risks. We investigated the hypothesis that pollution, as an environmental stress, impacts health by modulating the rate of cellular aging in healthy pregnant women. Our research looked at the effects that illegal waste sites have on the localized population of pregnant women in Campania, Italy. As is often the case in illegal dumping, the effects on the population are often seen well before knowing what specific agents in the soil and water are responsible. Here we provide evidence that the pollution in this region is significantly associated with higher oxidative stress, shorter telomere length and lower telomerase activity, which are known determinants of cell senescence and aging-related meiotic dysfunction in women, in peripheral blood mononuclear cells from healthy pregnant women, subjected to therapeutic abortion in the second trimester of pregnancy. These findings may have implications for understanding how, at the cellular level, environmental stress may promote earlier onset of age-related diseases.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollution
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Italy
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / metabolism
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Pregnancy
  • Refuse Disposal*
  • Telomerase / genetics
  • Telomere Shortening / drug effects*


  • TERT protein, human
  • Telomerase