Air Pollution: Announced to be Cancerous

    Just yesterday morning the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) announced the classification of outdoor air pollution as a Group 1 human carcinogen.  A specialized cancer agency of the World Health Organization, the IARC is the leading authority on the carcinogenicity of environmental chemicals.  After a thorough review of what has amounted to decades of air pollution research and epidemiology, the IARC has officially concluded that there is “sufficient evidence that exposure to outdoor air pollution causes lung cancer.”  The group also noted a relationship between air pollution and an increased risk of bladder cancer. 
      For a long time, air pollution as been known to increase the risk of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, however, its association with cancer is something that has taken longer for scientists to demonstrate.  The most recent science, however, indicates that in 2010 there were over 220,000 lung cancer deaths globally as a result of air pollution.  By officially assigning outdoor air pollution to the Group 1 cancer category (reserved only for chemicals in which sufficient causal evidence exists), the IARC is shining a much needed light on the importance of air pollution exposure.  While in the developed world air quality is by no means a vestige of the past, this issue is of particular importance in developing nations, where dirty industries complimented by burgeoning automobile fleets are causing major air quality problems.  One can only hope that with this new categorization by the IARC, countries will take special notice and tailor their domestic policies so as to minimize dirty emissions to our atmosphere.  To read the full press release by IARC, visit http://www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre/iarcnews/pdf/pr221_E.pdf

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                                                                                                -Shahir Masri, MS