Monday, October 21, 2013

The Air is Giving Us Cancer

Air Pollution Is a Leading Cause of Cancer
Kate Kelland and Stephanie Nebehay, Reuters, October 17, 2013

The specialized cancer agency of the World Health Organization, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), announced that it has classified outdoor air pollution as carcinogenic to humans.  Particulate matter, a major component of outdoor air pollution, was evaluated separately and was also classified as carcinogenic to humans.

The IARC cited data indicating that in 2010, 223,000 deaths from lung cancer worldwide resulted from air pollution, and said there was also convincing evidence it increases the risk of bladder cancer. 

Depending on the level of exposure in different parts of the world, the risk was found to be similar to that of breathing in second-hand tobacco smoke, said Kurt Straif, head of the agency's section that ranks carcinogens.

Air pollution, mostly caused by transport, power generation, industrial or agricultural emissions and residential heating and cooking, is already known to raise risks for a wide range of illnesses including respiratory and heart diseases.  Research suggests that exposure levels have risen significantly in some parts of the world, particularly countries with large populations going through rapid industrialization, such as China.  Although the composition and levels of air pollution can both vary dramatically from one location to the next, IARC said its conclusions applied to all regions of the world. 

"Our conclusion is that this is a leading environmental cause of cancer deaths," Dr. Christopher Wild, director of IARC, told reporters in Geneva.

Read the press release here.

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