Urban atmospheres contain complex mixtures of air pollutants including mutagenic and carcinogenic substances such as benzene, diesel soot, heavy metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. In the frame of a European network for the assessment of air quality by the use of bioindicator plants, the Tradescantia micronucleus (Trad-MCN) test was applied to examine the genotoxicity of urban air pollution. Cuttings of Tradescantia clone #4430 were exposed to ambient air at 65 monitoring sites in 10 conurbations employing a standardised methodology. The tests revealed an elevated genotoxic potential mainly at those urban sites which were exposed to severe car traffic emissions. This bioassay proved to be a suitable tool to detect local ‘hot spots' of mutagenic air pollution in urban areas. For its use in routine monitoring programmes, however, further standardisation of cultivation and exposure techniques is recommended in order to reduce the variability of results due to varying environmental conditions. The Tradescantia micronucleus test can be used to assess genotoxic potential at urban sites.
Environmental Pollution, 2006, Vol 139, Issue 3, p. 515-522