Even as the amount of carbon dioxide in the air has gone down, the outdoor air pollution continues to be an issue, particularly in developing countries and, most notably, in China. It’s long been known that pollution contributes to heart disease and respiratory illness, but the IInternational Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the World Health Organization’s specialized cancer agency, has now classified outdoor air pollution as carcinogenic to humans.
Particulate matter, a major component of outdoor air pollution, was evaluated separately and was also classified as carcinogenic to humans. Outdoor dust also can contribute to cancer. The world’s leading experts also noted a positive association with an increased risk of bladder cancer, WHO said.
The IARC called air pollution the worst and most widespread environmental carcinogen.
“The predominant sources of outdoor air pollution are transportation, stationary power generation, industrial and agricultural emissions, and residential heating and cooking,” the IARC said.
The classification is an important step, said IARC Director Dr. Christopher Wild.
“There are effective ways to reduce air pollution and, given the scale of the exposure affecting people worldwide, this report should send a strong signal to the international community to take action without further delay.”
Whether or not government leaders will do so seems unlikely, at least any major, lifestyle altering steps. Sadly, it takes large tragedies to spur them on (sometimes). Then again, you never know.