Does Air Pollution Increase the Risk of Lung Cancer?

Urbanization has caused cities to become more crowded. Our vehicles continue to discharge dirty emissions. With technological advancements, practically everything we do is dependent on electricity. The factories emit harmful gases. All these factors have increased the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, resulting in global warming and making the air we breathe dangerously polluted.

Nine out of ten people globally breathe polluted air. About 50% of the urban population worldwide is exposed to air pollution that is at least 2.5 times higher than the levels recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).

What Constitutes Air Pollution?

Government agencies use an air quality index, or AQI, to measure air pollution. This measure is based on the level of six atmospheric pollutants in the air. The six pollutants are:

  • Sulfur dioxide (SO2)
  • Nitrogen dioxide (NO2)
  • Suspended particulates smaller than 10 μm in aerodynamic diameter (PM10)
  • Suspended particulates smaller than 2.5 μm in aerodynamic diameter (PM2.5)
  • Carbon monoxide (CO)
  • Ozone (O3)

What are the Health Risks of Air Pollution?

Poor air quality has become the fourth-largest threat to human health, after high blood pressure, dietary risks and smoking, according to the International Energy Agency.

When we breathe polluted air, microscopic pollutants enter our bodies. They penetrate deep into our respiratory and circulatory system. This can damage the lungs, the heart, and even the brain.

The major health risks of air pollution are:

1.4 million deaths from stroke are attributable to air pollution
Heart Disease
2.4 million deaths from heart disease are attributable to air pollution
Lung Cancer
1.8 million deaths from lung disease are attributable to air pollution
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Worldwide ambient air pollution accounts for:

of all deaths and disease from lung cancerof all deaths and disease from acute lower respiratory infectionof all deaths from strokeof all deaths and disease from ischaemic heart diseaseof all deaths and disease from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease


Does Air Pollution Increase the Risk of Lung Cancer?

The short answer to this is “Yes.” The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) confirmed air pollution as a cause of cancer in 2013. The agency noted that “particulate matter,” or tiny dust-like particles that could be as small as millionths of a meter wide, present in the air can increase the risk of lung cancers. While air pollution is now a known cause of lung cancer, research is ongoing to determine exactly how these minuscule particles impact the DNA in cells and cause cancer.

Why is Air Pollution Known as the Silent Killer?

Although air pollution is not visible to the naked eye, it is the cause of an estimated 7 million deaths worldwide every year. Air pollution comes unannounced and is present around us at all times. It penetrates our bodies unnoticed and attacks our heart, lungs, and the brain.

What are the Causes of Air Pollution?

The major factors contributing to air pollution are:

  • Reliance on fossil fuels and the use of coal-fired power plants
  • Increasing use of vehicles – road, air, and water
  • Inefficient use of energy in buildings
  • Growing dependence on technology

How to Reduce Air Pollution?

To effectively reduce the main sources of ambient air pollution, government policies, as well as private investments, are needed into:

  • Cleaner transport
  • Alternative power generation
  • Energy-efficient industrial activities
  • Waste management

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