If you want to avoid lung cancer, the United Nation’s cancer-research body has some advice for you: Don’t breathe.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer on Thursday added air pollution, and the particulate matter that it contains, to its list of carcinogens.
The airborne poisons were classified as “Group 1” carcinogens, meaning there is “sufficient evidence” that they cause cancer in humans. They are mostly produced through the burning of fossil fuels in vehicles, power plants, and stoves.
And it’s not just lung cancer that can be triggered by air pollution. In a statement [PDF], the agency noted “a positive association” between polluted air and bladder cancer.
“Our task was to evaluate the air everyone breathes rather than focus on specific air pollutants,” agency official Dana Loomis told Reuters. “The results from the reviewed studies point in the same direction: the risk of developing lung cancer is significantly increased in people exposed to air pollution.”
The decision follows findings that air pollution killed 3.2 million people in 2010, including 233,000 cancer-related deaths. Most of the deaths occurred in India, China, and other developing countries with large populations. The Clean Air Act helped dramatically clean up the air that Americans breathe, but anybody who has visited Los Angeles or California’s Central Valley knows that problems persist in the West.
Air pollution and particulate matter now join a list [PDF], nicknamed the encyclopedia of carcinogens, that also contains such nasties as asbestos, plutonium, hepatitis, and tobacco smoke. Oh, and sun rays, estrogen therapy, Chinese-style salted fish, and booze.