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Breathing outdoor air polluted with industrial particles increases risk of early death, heart disease and lung cancer

Air pollution

(NaturalNews) As a kid, how many times did your parents tell you to go play outside and get some fresh air? Or maybe that's exactly what you said to your kids yesterday. While keeping them indoors in front of TV screens will definitely not improve their health and well-being, depending on where you live, exposing them to 'fresh' air could also harm them – and you, for that matter.

With a rapidly developing world, more toxic particles coming from wood stoves, vehicle exhausts, coal power plants, and other industrial sources, are expelled into the air we breathe.

According to new research presented at the 2016 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, more than 5.5 million people die prematurely every year as a result of household and outdoor air pollution. Most of the deaths occur in the rapidly developing economies of China and India.

Particle pollution increases risk of early death

Particle pollution is associated with an increased risk of lung cancer, heart disease, asthma attacks and premature death. Given that everybody is exposed to some air pollution, and the number of deaths it causes, densely populated cities and countries are facing a huge challenge to protect their citizens.

"Air pollution is the fourth highest risk factor for death globally and by far the leading environmental risk factor for disease," said Michael Brauer, a professor at the University of British Columbia's School of Population and Public Health in Vancouver, Canada. "Reducing air pollution is an incredibly efficient way to improve the health of a population."

In 2013, the World Health Organization's (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) brought together a panel of experts to review the link between outdoor air pollution and cancer. They concluded that there was enough evidence to say that solid dust-like particles, or particulate matter, with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5) or less, in outdoor air can cause cancer.

"Classifying outdoor air pollution as carcinogenic to humans is an important step," said IARC Director Christopher Wild, Ph.D. "Given the scale of the exposure, it sends a strong signal that it is vital to implement efficient policies to reduce exposure to pollution worldwide."

The lung cancer link

While smoking remains the number one risk factor for lung cancer, the growing air pollution is taking its toll too. Even though air pollution levels in the U.S. are well below those of China and India (thanks to the steps taken under the Clean Air Act), lower levels of small particle pollution have also been linked to lung cancer in the U.S.

"We know that fine particles can enter deep into the lungs and are linked to lung cancer, and even more research needs to be done on the precise way that these particles start the cancerous process within the lungs," said Norman Edelman, MD, senior scientific advisor to the American Lung Association.

"Anyone who lives where particle pollution levels are high is at risk. Some people face higher risk, including children, the elderly, people with lung and heart disease and diabetes, people with low incomes, and people who work or exercise outdoors," he added.

Protect your family

While it is impossible for all of us to move to the countryside where the air quality tends to be better, there are a few things you can do to protect your family.

Keep a close eye on the daily air quality index forecast, and limit outdoor activities as much as possible when levels are exceeding these limits. Avoid outdoor activities and exercising along heavily used streets and highways.

Furthermore, you can take actions as an individual to reduce particle emission into the air. Use a bike instead of the car (if possible), do not burn wood or trash, and don't keep the engine of your vehicle running when you're not driving. You can also join the Lung Action Network to call on the members of Congress to protect the Clean Air Act.

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