Outdoor Air Pollution Resulted in 223,000 Cancer Deaths in 2010

Posted on October 19, 2013  Comments (7)

The specialized cancer agency of the World Health Organization, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), announced today that it has classified outdoor air pollution as carcinogenic to humans.

After thoroughly reviewing the latest available scientific literature, the world’s leading experts convened by the IARC Monographs Programme concluded that there is sufficient evidence that exposure to outdoor air pollution causes lung cancer. They also noted a positive association with an increased risk of bladder cancer.

Particulate matter, a major component of outdoor air pollution, was evaluated separately and was also classified as carcinogenic to humans.

The IARC evaluation showed an increasing risk of lung cancer with increasing levels of exposure to particulate matter and air pollution. Although the composition of air pollution and levels of exposure can vary dramatically between locations, the conclusions of the Working Group apply to all regions of the world.

Air pollution is already known to increase risks for a wide range of diseases, such as respiratory and heart diseases. Studies indicate that in recent years exposure levels have increased significantly in some parts of the world, particularly in rapidly industrializing countries with large populations. The most recent data indicate that in 2010, 223,000 deaths from lung cancer worldwide resulted from air pollution.

“The air we breathe has become polluted with a mixture of cancer-causing substances,” says Dr Kurt Straif.

The stories of amazingly high (and persistent) air pollution levels in China have been continuing for years. But, while China, likely represents several of the worst existing air pollution conditions hundreds of thousands have died outside China due to air pollution just in the last 5 years.

The conclusions are based on the independent review of more than 1000 scientific
papers from studies on five continents. The reviewed studies analyse the carcinogenicity of various pollutants present in outdoor air pollution, especially particulate matter and transportation-related pollution. The evaluation is driven by findings from large epidemiologic studies that included millions of people living in Europe, North and South America, and Asia.

Please note that the summary evaluation will be published by The Lancet Oncology online on Thursday 24 October 2013.

The predominant sources of outdoor air pollution are transportation, stationary power generation, industrial and agricultural emissions, and residential heating and cooking. Some air pollutants have natural sources, as well.

Dr Christopher Wild. “There are effective ways to reduce air pollution and, given the scale of the exposure affecting people worldwide, this report should send a strong signal to the international community to take action without further delay.”

It is very difficult for individuals to cope with systemic failures (allowing excessive pollution that kills hundreds of thousands of people a year, for example); individual can wear masks to reduce negative impacts of air pollution. These types of risks should be dealt with at the government level. Those that argue that we don’t need nanny states protecting us from dangers that individuals have trouble coping with individually are not taking a very scientific approach to how societies can make life better.

See the full press release.

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7 Responses to “Outdoor Air Pollution Resulted in 223,000 Cancer Deaths in 2010”

  1. Ravi Kumar
    October 20th, 2013 @ 10:36 am

    That’s shocking news.We have to seriously think on air pollution.

  2. Jason Brad
    October 20th, 2013 @ 5:30 pm

    These are shocking facts. Developing countries are becoming more and more technology savvy without having proper measures to reduce air pollution. This needs to change and more research needs to be done to find ways to clean the air of toxins.

  3. Kods
    October 28th, 2013 @ 9:39 pm

    I read another article about China, the Government is promoting Bicycle which helps for healthy living and lower gas consumption.

  4. saintfrenzy
    October 29th, 2013 @ 1:25 am

    The environmental problem is the cosmopolitan problem. It is unavoidable because of the development of industry. In my opinion, to solve or relieve the problem, the coorperation of people from each countries is needed.

  5. Anonymous
    November 4th, 2013 @ 1:32 pm

    Oh gosh. This means we should stay away from air polluted areas. Another reason why I would not want to live in these zones. But what can you do? Everywhere were living has some form of air pollution. I guess were stuck in our chairs!!

  6. Jenny
    November 29th, 2013 @ 9:02 am

    Its good that I’m living in a place where there are more trees than buildings and factories.

  7. DIY Air Filters for Your House » Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog
    August 2nd, 2014 @ 12:29 pm

    PhD student Thomas Talhelm, was living in Bejing, China with very bad air pollution and wondered why air purifiers cost so much…

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