Major study finds pollution, especially from burning coal, has more influence on disease risk than genetic inheritance. 

The choking blanket of smog that layered Beijing in 2013 was so bad they had to invent a new word for it: “airpocalypse”. But anyone who has spluttered through the vehicle exhaust, construction dust, power plant emissions and crop stubble smoke that regularly cloak Hong Kong, Delhi or Hanoi will know the Chinese capital has no monopoly on bad air.

And the risks go beyond mere discomfort.

Air pollution causes spikes in heart attacks and stroke, triggers hospital admissions for asthmaupsets diabetes control and, for good measure, is a class one carcinogen known to cause lung cancer.

Genetics contributes to each of these, but research led by Philip Awadalla, from the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research in Toronto, Canada, suggests the disease risk from air pollution may have more to do with the genetic changes conferred by those aerial nasties than with the genes your mum and dad gave you.

Read the full article in Cosmos magazine here