New study reveals the deadly connection between air pollution and cancer

Keith Gaby

There is no political debate about bladder cancer. There aren’t strident cable TV debates, warring web sites, or ideological struggles about whether lung cancer is real and dangerous. The same can’t be said, of course, about climate change.

But strangely, those two issues are closely linked.

A new study from the International Agency for Research on Cancer has shown that air pollution is causing hundreds of thousands of cancer deaths around the world every year. The study showed that particulate matter produced by factories, cars and other sources is causing people to develop various forms of cancer. They now classify polluted air as a “Group 1” cancer source, along with plutonium, silica dust, ultraviolet radiation and tobacco smoke. And the result is more than 220,000 human lives cut short.

The results are sobering, but not surprising. Common sense suggests that putting chemicals in the air is bad for those who breathe it. Similarly, dumping billions of tons of pollution into the air is bad for the planet. And the connection doesn’t stop there, because the solution is the same in both cases. Shifting as rapidly as possible toward clean energy will mean less particulate matter and less carbon pollution, leading to less cancer and other diseases; as well as less of the rising temperatures, stronger storms, drought, and other impacts of climate change.

The more we can start viewing both of these issues from the perspective of science — chemistry, physics, medicine — the quicker we can take steps to reduce the impacts of our current approach to energy production. That would result in a cleaner and healthier future for all of us.

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