Outdoor Air Pollution – A Leading Cause of Cancer

Outdoor air pollution is a combination of different harmful substances, but the exact components vary depending on the sources of pollution nearby your location and weather. Air pollution is separated into indoor and outdoor pollution. Both indoor and outdoor air pollutants have been found as the causes of cancer, it is important to keep the risk in mind and take necessary precautions. Sources of outdoor air pollution can be man-made, such as vehicular emission, smoke from burning fuels. While dust, radon gas are natural sources of air pollution.

outdoor air pollution causes

Recently, there were several stories in media about air contaminants being one of the primary reasons causing cancer. These stories were triggered after an announcement from the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) about their latest analysis on outdoor air pollution causing cancer. Though the leading cause of cancer is smoking, but the risk of cancer from air pollution (indoor or outdoor) is rapidly increasing. Deaths caused due to air contaminants are just a fraction less than due to tobacco.

IARC is coming up with several evidences that outdoor air pollution increases the risk of cancer diseases and had already announced diesel engine exhaust and some other substances found within the air as causes of cancer. Also, in this harmful state of the air that surrounds us, everyone is trying to figure out ways to fix this problem.

What cuases air pollution?

outdoor air pollution

The reason air pollution is so hard for researchers to study is that it is a complex combination of different things. And the exact contents of the mixture vary widely as they depends on the various sources of pollution near your location. The primary sources of air pollution includes transport, dust, fossil fuel power station, industrial emission, agriculture and fuels people use to cook.

Particulate matter is a type of air pollutant, which is studied most, so the IARC did some research on it and concluded that PM is a category 1 substance that causes cancer. Particulate matter is classified by its size into PM 2.5 and PM 10. PM 2.5 and PM 10 are solid particles in the air that are smaller than 2.5 and 10 millionths of a metre across in size.

Other common outdoor air pollutants are:

  • Ozone gas
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Nitrogen dioxide
  • Sulphur dioxide

How good is the IARC’s evaluation?

IARC assessments are valuable as they are evaluated by a panel of experts from around the globe. These experts reviews all the available evidences and this evaluation was done with over 1000 scientific papers and included studies from over five continents. This evidence concluded that the outdoor air pollution is a category 1 cause of cancer.

In the case of air contamination, the evidence generally has mixed opinion, which is difficult to interpret and come to a result. The effects of air pollution on human vary from person to person due to so many factors including the sources they are emerging from. Sources of air pollution can be different at different places and weather.

How can we prevent indoor and outdoor air pollution?

According to the IARC, the primary sources of outdoor air pollution are transportation, industrial and agricultural emissions, stationary power generation, residential heating and cooking.

outdoor air pollution 1

As a part of the society, we can play a vital role in reducing indoor as well as outdoor air pollution levels. We can reduce outdoor pollution levels causing from transport by using eco-friendly travel options like walking and cycling or can use public transport. It is a great way to prevent air pollution and the risk of causing cancer and other harmful diseases.

Some reports also suggests that indoor air pollution is more hazardous to human health than outdoor air pollution. Indoor air pollution is caused due to dust, poor ventilation system, gas emissions etc. Today, one can install air purifier in his home or office to breathe pure and clean air indoors. It can help in blockage of all the cancer causing pollutants including PM 2.5 to inhale pure and healthy air.

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