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Air Pollution puts your skin at risk and of course makes it look less than ideal.

The authors of an interesting study published in the Journal of Personalized Medicine did a deep dive into how our skin is affected by exposures to diesel fumes, ozone, and UV radiation. All common daily exposures if your outside, live in a city or even on a farm. The intent was to identify what takes place that causes the diseases we commonly see from the pollution.

To be fair they did their experiment in a dish using human skin biopsy’s and kept the exposures for 24 hrs. Stay tuned as the take away is still very relevant.

Their study focused on  what’s known as MicroRNA also known as mIRNA, alterations when exposed to pollution.  A quick explanation, this is a small fragment in our cells made from our DNA that acts as a signal to our genes.  In short it’s part of our skin’s methods of insuring our health skin stays that way. One of mIRNA’s jobs is to keep carcinogenic expressions of bad damaged genes silent so that we don’t end up with a cancer.

Think of mIRNA as the switch turning off some genes that can could send the wrong signals to our cells, leading to cancer (oncogenes).


diesel buses

Now for the bottom line: “Diesel fumes mainly altered microRNAs involved in the carcinogenic process, ozone in apoptosis, and UV in DNA repair.” What does that mean for us ?

Diesel fumes are the bad actors that can cause cancer. Their impact on the messenger RNA stops the normal process and let’s bad genes (oncogenes) express themselves. Our EPA  and OSHA are very clear of the danger and limitations that are acceptable., I think the California Department of Health Services publication has an interesting warning worth reading: “Long-term exposure to diesel exhaust particles poses the highest risk of any toxic air contaminant evaluated by California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment.

Remember how far are you from a roadway ? A small distance or the wrong air flow and you might be inhaling diesel fumes regularly. Think of the times that the air quality is less than ideal in your neighborhood. Or worse yet your in an area where large trucks are common. How many times have you seen a large truck been left idling around your home when making a delivery ? Did you realize that that might be exhausting the same amount of pollution as if it were actually running.


When ozone is present and exposed to our skin it kills our cells is what was seen in the study.

Remember that every time there’s a lightening storm you can smell the electrical discharge, that’s one source of ozone. Our primary exposures are  known as ground-level ozone emitted from cars, power plants, industrial boilers, refineries, and chemical plants. Keep in mind that this pollution travels for many miles so don’t limit your thinking to a few blocks and keep in mind the wind direction and more. But ozone is not limited to the industrial and combustion sources, it can even be produced from your actions, such as your lawn mower and/or weed wacker (assuming they are gas driven).  

And although we are focused on skin for this blog, consider the overall impact as ozone can cause serious adverse health effects, from chest pain, coughing, throat irritation to airway inflammation. Think reduce lung function and damage to your lung tissue. It can worsen a host of airway illnesses from  bronchitis, emphysema, to asthma. 

Let’s take a short jog off the path and think about items in your home that can be ozone generators.  In a publication called Indoor Air in 2017 they checked 17 household items. Nine of which called ozone generation.  Think of a refrigerator air purifier to a fruit and vegetable washer and then a shoe sanitizer…… buyer beware as they all were indoor pollutants.

There are  legitimate uses for ozone, on a commercial scale. It’s able to breakdown organic products resulting in disinfecting, detox, decolouring, deoderizing. Think of the smell after a fire, where smoke has penetrated an item, as an example, the treatment can assist in reducing or eliminating the smell.

UV light:


UV light does in our ability to repair our DNA which is damaged even from normal living and needs constant repair, radically increased when we get exposed to pollution.

Speaking of UV light are you aware that the World Health Organization updated its take on the beds back in 2009 ?   “The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) announced today that it has moved UV tanning beds to its highest cancer risk category — “carcinogenic to humans.” Prior to the move, the group had classified sun lamp and tanning bed use as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” Jul 28, 2009″. Since then there have been no lack of articles I’m going to refer to the one by the Cleveland clinic that should have you shuttering titled;  “Are Tanning Beds Safe?”

Going outside, wear tightly woven clothing to shield your skin. Many manufactures are now rating their products with SPF numbers. If your clothing throws a notable shadow it’s probably ok. Remember to think organic and non-treated cloth as your sweating and who needs additional chemical insults, coupled with the sunlight.

If your worried about getting enough vitamin d consider a supplement. Population studies have shown that unless we live fairly close to the equator, and have outdoor activities regularly we’re probably not going to get enough vitamin d manufacturing from our bodies exposures to sunlight. Ask yourself how many hours a day do you expose enough of your body to the sun ? Probably not too often as we live indoors most of the time with clothing covering the majority of our skin.


Take Aways:

  • Use sunscreen regularly
  • If you live in a polluted area with high traffic get an air cleaner for your indoors area
  • Don’t exercise near roadways, period
  • If your environment includes diesel exposures, minimize.
  • Using vitamin C and other herbal extracts, as a skin treatment, can be very helpful
  • Clean your skin regularly expecially if exposed to pollution.
  • Don’t smoke (ever notice the facial  features of long term smokers?)
  • Don’t fall for the duping that an ozone generator is safe for your home, period.
  • Don’t leave your car or truck running unnecessarily.



MicroRNA Alterations Induced in Human Skin by Diesel Fumes, Ozone, and UV Radiation

Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: David Alan Rizzieri
J. Pers. Med. 2022, 12(2), 176;
Received: 6 October 2021 / Revised: 21 January 2022 / Accepted: 24 January 2022 / Published: 28 January 2022
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Role of MicroRNA in Cancer Development and Treatment)


Epigenetic alterations are a driving force of the carcinogenesis process. MicroRNAs play a role in silencing mutated oncogenes, thus defending the cell against the adverse consequences of genotoxic damages induced by environmental pollutants. These processes have been well investigated in lungs; however, although skin is directly exposed to a great variety of environmental pollutants, more research is needed to better understand the effect on cutaneous tissue. Therefore, we investigated microRNA alteration in human skin biopsies exposed to diesel fumes, ozone, and UV light for over 24 h of exposure. UV and ozone-induced microRNA alteration right after exposure, while the peak of their deregulations induced by diesel fumes was reached only at the end of the 24 h. Diesel fumes mainly altered microRNAs involved in the carcinogenesis process, ozone in apoptosis, and UV in DNA repair. Accordingly, each tested pollutant induced a specific pattern of microRNA alteration in skin related to the intrinsic mechanisms activated by the specific pollutant. These alterations, over a short time basis, reflect adaptive events aimed at defending the tissue against damages. Conversely, whenever environmental exposure lasts for a long time, the irreversible alteration of the microRNA machinery results in epigenetic damage contributing to the pathogenesis of inflammation, dysplasia, and cancer induced by environmental pollutants.

The effects of environmental pollutants on microRNA in human skin biopsies. According to the authors, microRNAs play a role in silencing mutated oncogenes and thereby protect against damage caused by pollutants.