Air Pollution: Lung Cancer & Non-Smokers
We all tend to associate lung cancer with smoking cigarettes. That’s what happens: You smoke, and then you pay a horrible price. But smoking doesn’t explain away all lung cancer. People who have never smoked nor had significant exposure to a smoker are diagnosed with lung cancer all the time. In fact, each year there are thousands of such cases in the United States alone.
Recently, science has begun to confirm some of our suspicions concerning air pollution. In a study conducted several years ago and posted online in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, researchers determined that non-smokers in areas with high levels of air pollution were 20 percent more likely to develop lung cancer than non-smokers in low-pollution areas were.
Air pollution will never trump the smoking of cigarettes as lung cancer’s leading cause, but the air pollution correlation is much more important. People can choose not to smoke, or they can choose to stop smoking. But most people live in areas that have high levels of air pollution because of proximity to employment and our urban way of life. They have little choice, and those areas are accounting for 10 percent of all lung cancer diagnoses at least.
According to Michelle Turner, the research lead and a University of Ottawa graduate student, lung cancer in those who have never smoked is now the sixth leading cause of cancer in the US. And its prevalence is growing. Just a decade ago we thought the rate was as low as 2 percent. Now we know it is much higher, and air quality conditions in many cities are still quite bad despite measures to lessen it.
For some time now, medical professionals have feared that the fine particulates in air pollution that cause irritation and inflammation in the lungs also had a long-term effect on our health. This study, which is one of the largest like it, went about proving it by monitoring nearly 200,000 non-smokers for a period of 26 years. They monitored people in various pollution conditions in all 50 states plus Puerto Rico. During the 26-year study, 1,100 participants died of lung cancer.
It is important to note that in almost all test areas, pollution actually dropped significantly over the 26 year span. This is good news: environmental measures are working. However, it is also disheartening that after all of these positive changes people are still dying at this staggering rate. How many people died due to the effects of air pollution?
This study provides great evidence that fine particle exposure increases cardiopulmonary mortality. Air pollution not only inflames and irritates the lungs; it changes us at the DNA level. Similar studies in China and in Europe support these findings as well. The obvious conclusion is that air pollution is dangerous and we should avoid it. But it’s dangerous even at moderate levels, and that can be tough to avoid.
More importantly, we often like to think that we’re safe within our homes. The truth is that our indoor air quality is actually more concentrated and therefore more deadly. The scariest aspect of this is that many of us spend as much as 90% of our time indoors. The good news is that we can ensure clean healthy air in our homes and our workplaces with a portable HEPA air purifier. HEPA filters removes 99.97% of airborne particulates down to 0.3 microns in size, including mold spores, dust, dust mite allergens, pet dander, pollen, viruses, bacteria, and many other tiny airborne pollutants.
Don’t you and your family deserve that kind of air quality? Imagine the positive effect it will have on your family. Don’t put this vital choice off for another moment.
- Administration Staff