Stop that carcinogen
Published by the Visayan Daily Star Publications, Inc.
|NINFA R. LEONARDIA|
Editor-in-Chief & President
NIDA A. BUENAFE
MAJA P. DELY
ANTONIO L. LEONARDIA|
The International Agency for Research on Cancer, the cancer agency of the World Health Organization, declared last Thursday that air pollution is a carcinogen, alongside known dangers such as asbestos, tobacco and ultraviolet radiation. Kurt Straif, head of the IARC department that evaluates carcinogens, said that “The air most people breathe has become polluted with a complicated mixture of cancer-causing substances,” and that the agency now considers pollution to be “the most important environmental carcinogen”, ahead of second-hand cigaret and cigar smoke.
This is the first time the IARC has classified air pollution in its entirety as cancer-causing. The body believes that the risk to the individual is low, but the main sources of pollution are widespread, including transportation, power plants, and industrial and agricultural emissions. Air pollution is a complex mixture that includes gases and particulate matter and the IARC says that one of its primary risks is the fine particles that can be deposited deep in the lungs of people.
The fact that nearly everyone on the planet is exposed to outdoor pollution could prompt governments and other agencies to adopt stricter controls on spewing fumes. Straif noted that WHO and the European Commission are reviewing their recommended limits on air pollution.
Those of us who live in the provinces are fortunate that air pollution levels are not yet as bad as the levels that residents in urbanized areas have to contend with everyday. But if our local officials do not keep this IARC declaration in mind as they manage the growth and progress of our cities, it would be very easy for our air pollution levels to get out of hand and threaten our health. Potentially carcinogenic emissions from vehicles, power plants, industries and agricultural activities have to be strictly monitored and regulated, so we get to enjoy all the benefits of modern living without endangering our health and that of our children.*