Air pollution leading cause of cancer: WHO

Air pollution is highly variable over space and time.

Written by Reuters | London | Published:October 18, 2013 3:23 am

The air we breathe is laced with cancer-causing substances and is being officially classified as carcinogenic to humans,the World Health Organisation’s cancer agency said on Thursday.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) cited data indicating that in 2010,about 2,23,000 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,Kurt Straif,head of

the agency’s section that ranks carcinogens,told reporters in Geneva.

“Our task was to evaluate the air everyone breathes rather than focus on specific air pollutants,” deputy head Dana Loomis said in a statement. “The results from the reviewed studies point in the same direction: the risk of developing lung cancer is significantly increased in people exposed to air pollution.”

IARC reviewed thousands of studies on air pollution tracking populations over decades and other research such as those in which mice exposed to polluted air experienced increased numbers of lung tumours.

In a statement released after reviewing the literature,the Lyon-based agency said both air pollution and “particulate matter” — a major component of it — would now be classified among its Group 1 human carcinogens.

Air pollution is highly variable over space and time. But although both the composition and levels of air pollution can 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,” Christopher Wild,director of IARC,told the news briefing in Geneva.

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