Air Pollution a Leading Cause of Cancer: World Health Organization

Air pollution causes cancer, the world health body declared on Thursday.

While the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) had previously classified elements of air pollution like diesel engine exhaust and some metals as carcinogens, the new designation marks the first time IARC is designating air pollution as a whole a carcinogen.

“Our task was to evaluate the air everyone breathes rather than focus on specific air pollutants,” Dr. Dana Loomis, Deputy Head of the Monographs Section of IARC, which identifies environmental factors that can increase the risk of human cancer, explained in a statement. 

Based on over 1000 scientific papers from studies across the world, the group now places air pollution among tobacco smoking, benzene and Gamma radiation as a known carcinogen in what is referred to as the “Encyclopaedia of Carcinogens.” 

“The WHO study confirms what many environmental justice community activists, leaders and scholars have been saying for decades.”
—Dr. Robert Bullard“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,” added Loomis.

In addition to finding sufficient evidence to say that outdoor air pollution causes lung cancer, the group found a positive association to an increased risk of bladder cancer.


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