"Each of us starts life with a particular set of genes, 20,000 to 25,000 of them. Now scientists are amassing a growing body of evidence that pollutants and chemicals might be altering those genes—not by mutating them, but by sending subtle signals that silence them or switch them on at the wrong times.
Last week, several dozen researchers and experts convened by the National Academies tackled this complicated topic, called epigenetics, at a two-day workshop in Washington, D.C. They discussed new findings that suggest chemicals in our environment and in our food can alter genes, leaving people vulnerable to a variety of diseases and disorders, including diabetes, asthma, cancer and obesity. They also considered whether regulatory agencies and industry should start testing the thousands of chemicals in use today for these effects."