World Cancer Day: Growing threat of air pollution on lung health

On World Cancer Day, The Union highlights the growing public health challenges being caused by air pollution, including an estimated 29 percent of all adult deaths from lung cancer being caused by air pollution.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that around seven million people die every year from exposure to fine particles in polluted air that penetrate deep into the lungs and cardiovascular system, causing diseases such as lung cancer.

Air pollution is a recognised critical risk factor for non-communicable diseases (NCDs). The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) cited data indicating that in 2010, 223,000 deaths from lung cancer worldwide resulted from air pollution, and said there was also convincing evidence it increases the risk of bladder cancer.

An estimated 40 percent of the world’s population are without access to clean cooking fuels and technologies in their homes, which is the main source of household air pollution. Exposure to carcinogens emitted from coal and biomass combustion used for cooking and heating elevates the risk of developing lung cancer.

More than 90 percent of air pollution-related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, with household air pollution being one of the leading causes of disease and premature death in the developing world.

Particulate matter is also a strong household and ambient pollutant and is capable of penetrating deep into lung passageways and entering the bloodstream causing cardiovascular, cerebrovascular and respiratory impacts. In 2013, it was classified as a cause of lung cancer by WHO’s IARC.

In November last year, WHO convened the first Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health, which brought together governments and partners in a global effort to raise awareness and introduce major commitments to the growing public health challenge that is air pollution.

The Union, as part of the Forum on International Respiratory Societies (FIRS), joined a ‘call for urgent action’ at the conference calling to reduce the number of deaths a year due to air pollution from seven million by two thirds by 2030.

Along with countries, urban mayors and civil society, FIRS also made a commitment to the global advocacy campaign, BreatheLife, to meet WHO air quality guidelines and reduce climate emissions by 2030.

This year’s World Cancer Day, marks the beginning of the three year ‘I Am and I Will’ campaign, which urges personal commitments to reduce the impact of cancer for yourself, the people you love and for the world.