Skip to main content

New research shows two common chemicals can accelerate the aging process

Recent research from Berkeley Public Health indicates that occupational exposure to two common environmental contaminants, benzene and trichloroethylene, can lead to more rapid biological aging.

The research results were included in a paper published in the journal Environment International, written by a team of researchers from the US, China, and the Netherlands, including Lars Van Der Laan, currently a PhD student at the University of Washington after receiving an MA in statistics at UC Berkeley; Andres Cardenas, professor of environmental health sciences and biostatistics at Berkeley Public Health; and Martyn T. Smith, professor of toxicology at Berkeley Public Health.

“The fundamental question of ‘why do we age’ [along with the differences seen in the aging between] individuals of the same chronological age raises the possibility of environmental influences on biological aging trajectories,” said Cardenas. “The chemical exposures we studied are ubiquitous, but can be reduced, thereby providing yet another tool to improve healthy aging and longevity.”

Benzene has been in the news lately, as it has been found at elevated levels in sunscreen and hand sanitizers.

“The chemicals we studied have already been identified as human carcinogens,” said Cardenas. “Our findings highlight their ability to accelerate a biological aging pathway, and we hope regulators and consumers take this information into consideration when evaluating risk of exposures.”

Other co-authors include Roel Vermeulen of Utrecht University; Alan E. Hubbard, Rachael V. Phillips, and Luoping Zhang of UC Berkeley; Charles Breeze, Wei Hu, Nathaniel Rothman, and Qing Lan of the National Cancer Institute; Cuiju Wen and Yongshun Huang of Guangdong Poison Control Center, Guandong, China; and Xiaojiang Tang of the Guangdong Medical Laboratory Animal Center, Guandong, China. This project was supported by the Superfund Research Center at UC Berkeley; the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences; and the National Institute on Aging, along with intramural funds from the National Cancer Institute.

Read the full paper at Environment International:
Epigenetic aging biomarkers and occupational exposure to benzene, trichloroethylene and formaldehyde.