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Outdoor air pollution a leading cause of cancer deaths

Last Update 06/04/2021

Outdoor air pollution has been classified as carcinogenic by the World Health Organization (WHO).


Outdoor air pollution has been classified as carcinogenic (cancer-causing) to humans, by the World Health Organization (WHO) yesterday.

After reviewing the latest available scientific literature, the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded that there is sufficient evidence that exposure to outdoor air pollution causes lung cancer. They also noted a positive association with an increased risk of bladder cancer.

The IARC evaluation showed an increasing risk of lung cancer with increasing levels of exposure to particulate matter and air pollution. Although the composition of air pollution and levels of exposure can vary dramatically between locations, the conclusions of the Working Group apply to all regions of the world.

Air pollution is already known to increase risks of a wide range of diseases, such as respiratory and heart diseases. Studies indicate that in recent years exposure levels have increased significantly in some parts of the world, particularly in rapidly industrializing countries with large populations. The most recent data indicate that in 2010, 223 000 deaths from lung cancer worldwide resulted from air pollution.

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