Strong new evidence suggests that an air pollutant emitted by power plants and vehicles raises the risk of lung cancer.City living can increase your chances of dying from lung cancer or heart disease, and the culprits are particles of air pollution. The study authors contend that simply living in a major urban area exposes you to "fine particulate matter" that makes its way into your lungs when you breathe, increasing your risk of cardiopulmonary disease and cancer.
Scientists were quick to point out that the increased cancer risk from breathing particulate pollution is only a tiny fraction of the increased risk from smoking. "This means, over the long run, your lungs and heart are experiencing damage equal to what you would get if you were living with a smoker, even if you are not," says study author George D. Thurston. Although much of the study doesn't say anything new, experts note it's important research because it addresses criticisms of past air pollution studies, including a lack of adequate follow-up.
"What makes this study significant is that it involved hundreds of thousands of people in cities across the country. And most importantly, it gave us nearly two decades of follow-up, during which time it continued to demonstrate a direct correlation between this fine particulate air pollution and the risk of death from heart and lung disease," says George D. Thurston.
The efforts to clean up city air stir up a political debate that revolves, around huge power plants that continue to burn coal, and sometimes diesel fuel, to provide low-cost electricity for many suburban areas.