The effects of air pollution and vehicular exhaust on human buccal cells and micronucleus formation

Date of Publication


Document Type

Bachelor's Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science in Premed Physics


College of Science



Thesis Adviser

Edgar Vallar

Defense Panel Chair

Ma. Cecilia Galvez

Defense Panel Member

Ofelia Rempillo
Custer Deocaris


Air pollution has been a great threat in the world today. It has a wide range of components from particulate matters, gases, hydrocarbons, volatile organics, heavy metals and products from secondary reactions, nitrates and organic acids. All these elements contribute to the urban air pollution, including traffic exhaust and was found out to have long-term effects on a person's health. In this study, the researchers determined if the outdoor air pollution in Malabon City has an effect to the frequency of the micronucleated buccal cells of male tricycle drivers from barangays, Concepcion, Longos, Potrero, Santulan, Tafiong, and Tinajeros. This study also tested the frequency of micronucleated buccal cells of male government employees and the indoor air quality inside the Malabon City Hall. A survey form was also handed out to the subjects. Samples of buccal cells were taken by using cotton swabs and sterile test tubes filled with 3: I ratio of cold methanol and acetic acid. These samples were then placed in the cytocentrifuge for 15 minutes with 4000 rpm. Cells were then extracted from the test tubes and placed on 2 different slides per subject and treated with 5% Giemsa so that the cells are seen better. A thousand buccal cells were counted per subject so that the comparison for all subjects would be equivalent. For the air quality collection, the researchers used Aeroqual sensors, LightHouse sensors to measure PMs and gases like CO, NO2, SO2 and O3. The researchers found out that the tricycle drivers did have a high amount of micronucleus in their buccal cells while the government employees had only a few. Out of all the barangays, Tafiong had the lowest number of micronucleated cells compared to Santulan and Tinajeros which had the highest number. The frequency of the micronucleus found in the buccal cells were correlated with the subject's age, working hours, years of residency, vices (smoking and alcoholism), drinks (coffee, juice, and tea), and food intake (chicken, beef, pork, fish, and preservatives like hotdog). The researchers found out that the exposure of the subjects to air pollution had the greatest effect on the frequency of micronucleus, while juice and alcoholism are also had an effect. Looking at the Lighthouse results, PM0.5, PM1.0, PM2.5, and PM10.0 were at their highest in the locations Potrero and Longos. Potrero and Longos are two of the eight locations where traffic and vehicular exhaust is heavily present, along with factories and public utility vehicles on the streets. The lowest PM concentrations garnered from the air quality collection were inside Malabon City Hall, followed closely by Dampalit. This is due to the fact the extra vehicular exhaust and extra pollution are not rampant indoors as there are air quality filters inside the building, as well as in Dampalit which only had residential cars driving on the street. Results for Aeroqual demonstrated that gas concentration (NO2, SO2, O3, and CO) on different locations were dependent on factors such as the number of vehicles passing by and the sunlight it received. Almost all locations that were assigned for testing were major routes for travelling so there were a lot of vehicles that passed by in the areas. Tinajeros recorded the highest levels of Nitrogen Dioxide and Ozone. Tinajeros has a gas station nearby thus a lot of vehicles passed by in the area. Nitrogen dioxide gets mixed into the air by fuel combustion while ozone is formed due to the chemical reaction of Nitrogen Oxides and Volatile Organic Compounds in sunlight and stagnant air. Moving on, testing for CO and SO2 revealed that the Malabon City Hall had the highest CO and SO2 concentration. Indoor Air Quality is said to be much worse compared to the air outdoors by up to 5 times. A lot of pollutants indoors worsen the air quality inside. It can be concluded that micronucleus assay can be of help in determining the future health risk for people who are exposed to air pollution. Factors such as age, exposure, vices, and etc. can also be used to determine if it will have an effect on the frequency of the micronucleus found on the human buccal cell.

Abstract Format






Accession Number


Shelf Location

Archives, The Learning Commons, 12F, Henry Sy Sr. Hall


Air—Pollution—Physiological effect; Air quality—Philippines—Malabon City

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