New Study Finds Link Between Air Pollution And Brain Cancer

A new study from McGill University in Montreal has established for the first time a link between air pollution particles from motor vehicle exhaust and brain cancer.

EcoWatch reports:

“According to a study published this week in Epidemiology, increased exposure to ultra-fine particles (UFPs) produced by diesel engines and burning coal raises the risk of developing malignant brain tumors by 10 percent.”

Additionally, researchers found that the link between air pollution and brain cancer was present after just a one-year increase in exposure to pollution of 10,000 nanoparticles per cubic centimeter, which is the equivalent of moving from a quiet street to a busier one in the city, according to The Guardian:

“The ultra-fine particles (UFPs) are produced by fuel burning, particularly in diesel vehicles, and higher exposures significantly increase people’s chances of getting the deadly cancer. Previous work has shown that nanoparticles can get into the brain and that they can carry carcinogenic chemicals.”

Scott Weichenthal of McGill University noted that the risk from air pollution applies to everyone:

“Environmental risks like air pollution are not large in magnitude – their importance comes because everyone in the population is exposed. So when you multiply these small risks by lots of people, all of sudden there can be lots of cases. In a large city, it could be a meaningful number, particularly given the fact that these tumors are often fatal.”

The study was conducted by analyzing the medical records and pollution exposure of 1.9 million adult Canadians from 1991 to 2016. Such a large study gives researchers a great deal of strong evidence, but do not provide a definitive causal link.

Weichenthal, who co-authored the study, notes that no one should be surprised by the risk presented by pollution from particulate matter in the air:

“Any time you burn anything, these small particles are produced. These particles are so small they can get into our bloodstream and into our brains.”

Additionally, the study has larger implications for health policy across the globe:

“For instance, in Kabul, Afghanistan, smog and other air pollution may now be killing more people than war, the Associated Press recently reported, and New Delhi, India, has suffered from ‘severe’ air quality with pollution exceeding eight times the recommended maximum due to agricultural and weather patterns.”

Professor Jordi Sunyer, at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health in Spain, said the new study is very important:

“This is an important finding, given that UFPs are directly emitted by combustion cars and several studies in animals have shown UFPs could be more toxic than larger particles.”

Weichenthal encouraged people to push for legislation that will help control air pollution:

“At an individual level, it is always a good idea to reduce your exposure to pollutants. But the more important actions are at a regulatory level, where you can take action that reduces everyone’s exposure – that is where the real benefits come in.”

Sadly, however, it doesn’t seem like the current administration in the United States is the least bit interested in doing anything for public health and are bending over backward to accommodate whatever corporate polluters want.


Featured Image Via Wikimedia Commons


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Andrew Bradford

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