A study by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that in urban areas, reducing air pollution can do as much as completely eliminating smoking, often reducing the rates of some 12 different cancers most commonly associated with smoking, including cervical cancer, lung cancer, stomach, bladder, pancreatic, colon and liver cancers. Simply said, if we could have every smoker in the world stop smoking, the rates of cancer would remain high due to the conditions of air pollution we find ourselves in.
Studies by the University of Massachusetts showed that if our society quit smoking for 20 years, the level of cancer and illnesses that exist due to air pollution would not significantly reduce. Air pollution is the primary driver in their studies, with hazardous air pollutants including carcinogens like chloroprene, formaldehyde and vinyl chloride polluting our ground level ozone, along with carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide levels. The higher the air pollutant levels, the higher cancer rates. It can take over 20 years for cancer to develop following a harmful exposure. The studies were challenged by time itself, since there really is not enough data available for these studies. Finding reliable data was and is key, specifically if one is studying a specific exposure type, or cancer history.
Tobacco control, as well as the use of smoked cannabis and vaping, is critical, but to suggest that personal behaviour alone when discussing cancer risk, is like victim blaming. Rural areas suffer from drift pollution accumulation, affecting rainfall with environmental concerns. Pollution can be controlled through governmental regulation, wrestling air exhaust from the private sector using direct regulatory management. Acknowledging that many risk factors are beyond people’s direct control, like air pollution and showing the public how this urgent problem needs to be addressed.
In many parts of the world, where emerging national economies are growing unchecked by any form of governmental regulation, pollution in the air, land and water continues to grow in intensity, while the national populations suffer the ill effects of this pollution. Waste in water evaporates and travels the global airways, sharing this pollution with everyone. New forms of rare cancers are discovered along the way. Like the pandemic virus we have experienced these past years, air pollution is front and centre of those things we need to fix, but are not able to do so. Why? Those that pollute the most show no real commitment to change their polluting ways. Bad for business. Air purifying devices sell out, and their technology is something to invest in, surely.
The air we breathe has become a dumping ground for the ignorant, greedy and selfish, historically and currently as well. Water, food and air – those are the gifts we all need to survive. These gifts of the earth are being taken away from us, manipulated, and polluted. Time has come to change this equation of waste.
“I will never let someone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.” – Gandhi
Why do we allow others to pollute the very air we breathe with poisons of harm and death?
Steven Kaszab, Bradford, Ontario