A Dire Air Pollution Warning

Contaminants in the air are officially carcinogens, according to the World Health Organization.

Bob Grant
Bob Grant

Bob Grant is Editor in Chief of The Scientist, where he started in 2007 as a Staff Writer.

View full profile.

Learn about our editorial policies.

Oct 20, 2013

WIKIMEDIA, NATIONAL PARKS SERVICEAir pollution—from vehicle exhaust, industry, and large fires—can cause lung cancer, according to a new report from the World Health Organization’s cancer arm, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). The announcement marks the first time that outdoor air pollution has been officially classified as a carcinogen. “This report should send a strong signal to the international community to take action,” IARC director Christopher Wild told Bloomberg. “We can’t treat our way out of this cancer problem. The first step is identifying the causes.”

Outdoor air pollution caused about 223,000 deaths from lung cancer around the world in 2010, according to the report, which reviewed published studies to reach the conclusion that pollutants in air could be deadly. Rather than focusing on particular components of air pollution, the IARC examined health data relating to fouled air in general. “Our task was to evaluate the...

Interested in reading more?

The Scientist ARCHIVES

Become a Member of

Receive full access to more than 35 years of archives, as well as TS Digest, digital editions of The Scientist, feature stories, and much more!
Already a member?