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Genotoxic potential generated by biomass burning in the Brazilian Legal Amazon by Tradescantia micronucleus bioassay: a toxicity assessment study

Herbert A Sisenando15*, Silvia R Batistuzzo de Medeiros2, Paulo HN Saldiva3, Paulo Artaxo4 and Sandra S 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 Patologia, USP, São Paulo, CEP: 01246-903, SP, Brazil

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

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

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Environmental Health 2011, 10:41  doi:10.1186/1476-069X-10-41

Published: 17 May 2011



The Brazilian Amazon has suffered impacts from non-sustainable economic development, especially owing to the expansion of agricultural commodities into forest areas. The Tangará da Serra region, located in the southern of the Legal Amazon, is characterized by non-mechanized sugar cane production. In addition, it lies on the dispersion path of the pollution plume generated by biomass burning. The aim of this study was to assess the genotoxic potential of the atmosphere in the Tangará da Serra region, using Tradescantia pallida as in situ bioindicator.


The study was conducted during the dry and rainy seasons, where the plants were exposed to two types of exposure, active and passive.


The results showed that in all the sampling seasons, irrespective of exposure type, there was an increase in micronucleus frequency, compared to control and that it was statistically significant in the dry season. A strong and significant relationship was also observed between the increase in micronucleus incidence and the rise in fine particulate matter, and hospital morbidity from respiratory diseases in children.


Based on the results, we demonstrated that pollutants generated by biomass burning in the Brazilian Amazon can induce genetic damage in test plants that was more prominent during dry season, and correlated with the level of particulates and elevated respiratory morbidity.