Open Access Research article

Micronucleus frequency in children exposed to biomass burning in the Brazilian Legal Amazon region: a control case study

Herbert Ary Sisenando15*, Silvia Regina Batistuzzo de Medeiros2, Paulo Artaxo3, Paulo HN Saldiva4 and Sandra de Souza Hacon1

Author Affiliations

1 Escola Nacional de Saúde Pública - ENSP, Fiocruz, Rio de Janeiro CEP: 21041-210, RJ, Brazil

2 Departamento de Biologia Celular e Genética, UFRN, Natal CEP: 59072-970, RN, Brazil

3 Departamento de Física Aplicada, USP São Paulo CEP: 05508-900, SP, Brazil

4 Departamento de Patologia, USP, São Paulo CEP: 01246-903, SP, Brazil

5 Departamento de Patologia, UFF, Niterói CEP: 24033-900, RJ, Brazil

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Oral Health 2012, 12:6  doi:10.1186/1472-6831-12-6

Published: 8 March 2012



The Amazon represents an area of 61% of Brazilian territory and is undergoing major changes resulting from disorderly economic development, especially the advance of agribusiness. Composition of the atmosphere is controlled by several natural and anthropogenic processes, and emission from biomass burning is one with the major impact on human health. The aim of this study was to evaluate genotoxic potential of air pollutants generated by biomass burning through micronucleus assay in exfoliated buccal cells of schoolchildren in the Brazilian Amazon region.


The study was conducted during the dry seasons in two regions of the Brazilian Amazon. The assay was carried out on buccal epithelial cells of 574 schoolchildren between 6-16 years old.


The results show a significant difference between micronucleus frequencies in children exposed to biomass burning compared to those in a control area.


The present study demonstrated that in situ biomonitoring using a sensitive and low cost assay (buccal micronucleus assay) may be an important tool for monitoring air quality in remote regions. It is difficult to attribute the increase in micronuclei frequency observed in our study to any specific toxic element integrated in the particulate matters. However, the contribution of the present study lies in the evidence that increased exposure to fine particulate matter generates an increased micronuclei frequency in oral epithelial cells of schoolchildren.