Air pollution can cause cancer, world health authority says

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(CNN) — The air many people breath poses serious health risks, the World Health Organization said. On Thursday it added cancer to that list.

Air pollution is a now officially a carcinogen, said the WHO’s specialized cancer agency in a statement.

The more people expose themselves to fine particles and other pollutants in the air, the higher their risk of developing lung cancer. Air pollution can also increase the risk of bladder cancer, said the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

People in developing countries with large populations and booming manufacturing sectors are particularly at risk.

“The predominant sources of outdoor air pollution are transportation, stationary power generation, industrial and agricultural emissions, and residential heating and cooking,” the IARC said.

The agency decided upon the official classification of air pollution as carcinogenic after reviewing the latest scientific writings and coming to the conclusion that the evidence was ample.

The classification is an important step, said IARC Director Dr Christopher Wild.

“There are effective ways to reduce air pollution and, given the scale of the exposure affecting people worldwide, this report should send a strong signal to the international community to take action without further delay.”

In 2010, lung cancer resulting from air pollution took the lives of 223,000 people.

The IARC called it the most widespread environmental carcinogen.

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