The cancer agency of the World Health Organization—the same organization that got Americans to quit smoking--says in a new, dramatic study that the air we breathe is laced with cancer-causing substances and is being officially classified as carcinogenic to humans.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has now put air pollution in the same category as tobacco smoke, UV radiation and plutonium.
According to the organization, while it has long been known that air pollution can cause heart and lung diseases, new evidence has emerged that it was also causing cancer.
The IARC points to the most recent data, which shows that 223,000 deaths from lung cancer around the world were caused by air pollution, while more than half of the deaths were thought to be in China and other East Asian countries, but also in eastern North America, some places in Central America and Mexico, as well as North Africa.
The study indicates that in recent years exposure levels have increased significantly in some parts of the world, particularly in rapidly industrializing countries with large populations.
Sources of pollution include car exhaust, power stations, emissions from agriculture and industry, and residential heating, among other things.
Kurt Straif, head of the agency's department dealing with ranking carcinogenic risk, described breathing polluted air as akin to breaking in second-hand tobacco smoke. “We now know that outdoor air pollution is not only a major risk to health in general, but also a leading environmental cause of cancer deaths,” Straif said.
IARC's ranking system had already classified many chemicals and mixtures that can be components of air pollution, including diesel engine exhaust, solvents, metals and dusts. But this is the first time that experts have classified air pollution as a cause of cancer.
Other organizations are also working to prove that air pollution causes increased allergies and leads to a rise in infectious diseases.
And there is a climate change twist to this story, as well. The Environmental Defense Fund shows that tick-borne Lyme disease is easier to spread with warmer climates. They also claim that rising water temperatures increase the spread of Cholera.
By. Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com