News that the International Agency for Research on Cancer has deemed air pollution a carcinogen comes at the 20-year anniversary of the Harvard Six Cities Study. That epi study found an association between air pollution and elevated rates of heart disease, lung cancer and other respiratory diseases like emphysema.
Celeste Monforton of George Washington University offered a look back on SciBlogs last year, concluding:
Scientists from across the country and around the globe have been inspired to model their own air pollution research using the Harvard Six Cities design. They’ve examined air contaminants and health effects in the Pearl River delta of southern China (here), in Denmark (here), in France (here), in London, Ontario (here) in New Zealand (here), and among the California Teachers’ study cohort (here), the Nurses’ Health study cohort (here), and in Medicare populations (here), just to name a few. The Harvard Six Cities study is a classic for laying a bedrock foundation for these subsequent studies, and for providing the first unimpeachable evidence linking certain air contaminants with premature death.
More here from the e-book version of the new IARC report.
Emissions from motor vehicles, industrial processes, power generation, the household combustion of solid fuel, and other sources pollute the ambient air across the globe. The precise chemical and physical features of ambient air pollution, which comprises a myriad of individual chemical constituents, vary around the world due to differences in the sources of pollution, climate, and meteorology, but the mixtures of ambient air pollution invariably contain specific chemicals known to be carcinogenic to humans.
Recent estimates suggest that the disease burden due to air pollution is substantial. Exposure to ambient fine particles was recently estimated to have contributed 3.2 million premature deaths worldwide in 2010, due largely to cardiovascular disease, and 223 000 deaths from lung cancer. More than half of the lung cancer deaths attributable to ambient fine particles were projected to have been in China and other East Asian countries.