New study reveals the deadly connection between air pollution and cancer


United Nations Photo/flickr

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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Keith Gaby

Keith Gaby

Explores the intersection of politics and climate change.

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You want Western governments to take action to reduce cancer-causing air pollution around the world? Start by showing the amount of money this pollution is causing Western governments in terms of healthcare costs, lost worker productivity, etc. Everything has to be put in the form of dollar amounts in order to get a any real action to occur, I'm sad to say.

Individual families that have suffered cancer should be able to directly bill fossil fuel companies for compensation. Work up a dollar amount, and send an invoice. Call and visit. Don't give up until you get the money. Don't wait for a government to do this for you - take action yourself if you want any action taken at all.

Unfortunately, the real driving force behind cleaner energy sources is going to be economics pure and simple. Once it is economically the most feasible option, this is when we'll find see bigger shifts toward clean energy. Thank you for sharing this information.