Outdoor Air Pollution Causes Cancer Deaths

(October 31, 2013)

Outdoor air pollution and particulate matter both cause cancer in humans, according to a recent announcement by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). This broadens other earlier research that found specific air pollutants cause lung and other cancers, and cause premature death, asthma attacks and other harmful health effects.

This expert review by the IARC, an arm of the World Health Organization, concluded that the strength of the scientific evidence demonstrates that outdoor air pollution causes lung cancer deaths. The review, which looked at the latest studies conducted around the globe, also identified particles as a specific lung carcinogen.  The IARC found that the evidence met the strongest tests to reach these conclusion.  

The human toll is profound. They cited one 2010 study that estimated fine particles (PM2.5) contribute to 223,000 deaths from lung cancer worldwide.

Cancer is in the air, but it does not need to be. Thanks to the Clean Air Act, the air quality in the United States has improved significantly over the past 40 years. However, too many people remain exposed to dangerous levels of cancer-causing air pollution and particulate matter. As a nation, we owe protection from lung cancer to our families, our children and our neighbors. The Clean Air Act provides the tools to clean up power plants, motor vehicles, and industrial processes, as well as the woodstoves used to heat homes.

Big polluters and their allies on Capitol Hill have tried time and again to dispute the science, even though these published studies have stood multiple, thorough, independent reviews. This IARC review is only the latest and most comprehensive review to draw the connection between air pollution and lung cancer.

Want to learn more? The American Lung Association’s Healthy Air Agenda identifies critical steps to protect the air we breathe.  Passionate about reducing air pollution? Have an experience with unhealthy air to share? Keep up with the American Lung Association’s Fight for Air and learn how you can help.