Air pollution linked to deadly lung cancer

Air pollution is a killer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) - the cancer research arm of the World Health Organization- has classified outdoor air pollution  as "known" to cause cancer in humans (Group 1). Particulate matter - a major hazardous air pollutant- was evaluated separately and also classified as a "known" (Group 1) human carcinogen. The link is strongest for lung cancer, but bladder cancer was also flagged as a risk.

Lung cancer is a particularly terrifying type of cancer. Recent statistics from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) indicate that 1 in 15 men and women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with lung or bronchus cancer during their lifetime, with only a 16.6% chance of surviving for 5 years beyond the initial diagnosis. We'd rather prevent cancer in the first place.

In addition to cancer, air pollution has long been known to increase risk of heart and respiratory disease, heart attacks, asthma attacks, and bronchitis, many of them also lethal. A 2010 statement by the U.S. Health Effects Institute (HEI) - an independent research institute jointly funded by government, industry, and foundations - flagged air pollution, and particularly fine particulate matter (PM 2.5, such as from diesel exhaust and fuel combustion from vehicles and power plants) as among the top global health risks.

IARC noted that the predominant sources of outdoor air pollution are transportation, stationary power generation, industrial and agricultural emissions, and residential heating and cooking, and some natural sources.

NRDC is taking steps to protect our air from harmful pollutants, using science, the law, and advocacy to push back against polluters and stand up for health. But, we can't do it without your support. Become an NRDC member (becoming an online member is free) and take action today.

About the Authors

Jennifer Sass

Senior Scientist, Health program

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