Air Pollution Causes Lung Cancer: New WHO Report - Health Minute for October 24, 2013
Air pollution has been confirmed as a cause of lung cancer, joining tobacco, asbestos, and ultraviolet radiation on the list of certified cancer agents. This confirmation comes from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a unit of the World Health Organization. The IARC had earlier identified components of air pollution such as diesel fumes to be carcinogens, but last week’s decision is the first time that air pollution in its entirely has been designated as cancer causing. The panel’s classification was announced after an analysis of more than 1,000 studies of connections between pollution and lung cancer. In 2010, an estimated 220,000 lung cancer deaths worldwide were linked to air pollution. The IARC now considers pollution to be the most important environmental carcinogen, ahead of second-hand smoke from tobacco. The agency’s report noted that the worst pollution can be found in India and China. Just a few days ago, air pollution in Harbin, China, a city of 11 million, reached the limit of WHO’s Air Quality Index, which tops out at 500. At that level, WHO standards define pollution to be more than 20 times the level considered to be safe. Last January, Beijing reported an even higher AQI reading, 755. But since everyone on the planet is exposed to outdoor pollution, collective international action is needed to adopt stricter controls on contamination of the earth’s atmosphere. Both the WHO and the European Commission are now reviewing their recommended limits on air pollution. Let’s hope that governments around the world act quickly and effectively to deal with this health crisis. I’m John Howell for 3BL Media.
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