Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

First Brain Cancer Link to Air Pollution Found in New Study

Health + Wellness
First Brain Cancer Link to Air Pollution Found in New Study
Campaigners from Friends of the Earth Scotland gather to demand clean air in August 2015. MAVERICK PHOTO AGENCY / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Air pollution particles from motor vehicle exhaust have been linked to brain cancer for the first time, researchers at McGill University in Montreal say.


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.

The researchers found that the association was present after just a one-year increase in pollution exposure of 10,000 nanoparticles per cubic centimeter — that's about the difference you can expect after moving from a quiet street to a busier city street, The Guardian reported.

"Any time you burn anything, these small particles are produced," co-author and epidemiologist Scott Weichenthal, told UPI. "These particles are so small they can get into our bloodstream and into our brains."

While previous research has established that these UFPs are reaching the brain and potentially damaging every cell in the body, this is the first time researchers have been able to show that even a moderate increase in UFPs could lead to one additional case of brain cancer for every 100,000 people exposed to the pollution.

The study looked at medical records and pollution exposure for 1.9 million adults in two cities, Toronto and Montreal from 1991 to 2016, CBS reported.

Pollution levels in those cities range from 6,000 to 97,000 nanoparticles per cubic centimeter. According to Weichenthal, these ranges are typical of most major North American cities, The Guardian reported, and that those living with air pollution levels of 50,000 nanoparticles per cubic centimeter or more have a 50 percent higher risk of developing brain tumors than those at only 15,000 nanoparticles per cubic centimeter.

"Environmental risks like air pollution are not large in magnitude – their importance comes because everyone in the population is exposed," study co-author Scott Weichenthal, told The Guardian. "So when you multiply these small risks by lots of people, all of the sudden there can be lots of cases. In a large city, it could be a meaningful number, particularly given the fact that these tumours are often fatal."

The researchers acknowledged that the study did not show that the UFPs directly caused brain cancer, and more research into the environmental factors should be done, the Daily Mail reported.

Still, the study has implications for public health policy around the world in the face of growing air pollution crises. 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.

"At an individual level, it is always a good idea to reduce your exposure to pollutants," Weichenthal told The Guardian. "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."

Currently, the World Health Organization estimates that 4.2 million people die from ambient air pollution each year.

Ningaloo Reef near Exmouth on April 2, 2012 in Western Australia. James D. Morgan / Getty Images News

By Dana M Bergstrom, Euan Ritchie, Lesley Hughes and Michael Depledge

In 1992, 1,700 scientists warned that human beings and the natural world were "on a collision course." Seventeen years later, scientists described planetary boundaries within which humans and other life could have a "safe space to operate." These are environmental thresholds, such as the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and changes in land use.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A 3-hour special film by EarthxTV calls for protection of the Amazon and its indigenous populations. EarthxTV.org

To save the planet, we must save the Amazon rainforest. To save the rainforest, we must save its indigenous peoples. And to do that, we must demarcate their land.

Read More Show Less

Trending

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres delivers a video speech at the high-level meeting of the 46th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council UNHRC in Geneva, Switzerland on Feb. 22, 2021. Xinhua / Zhang Cheng via Getty Images

By Anke Rasper

"Today's interim report from the UNFCCC is a red alert for our planet," said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

The report, released Friday, looks at the national climate efforts of 75 states that have already submitted their updated "nationally determined contributions," or NDCs. The countries included in the report are responsible for about 30% of the world's global greenhouse gas emissions.

Read More Show Less
New Delhi's smog is particularly thick, increasing the risk of vehicle accidents. SAJJAD HUSSAIN / AFP via Getty Images

India's New Delhi has been called the "world air pollution capital" for its high concentrations of particulate matter that make it harder for its residents to breathe and see. But one thing has puzzled scientists, according to The Guardian. Why does New Delhi see more blinding smogs than other polluted Asian cities, such as Beijing?

Read More Show Less
A bridge over the Delaware river connects New Hope, Pennsylvania with Lambertville, New Jersey. Richard T. Nowitz / Getty Images

In a historic move, the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) voted Thursday to ban hydraulic fracking in the region. The ban was supported by all four basin states — New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New York — putting a permanent end to hydraulic fracking for natural gas along the 13,539-square-mile basin, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Read More Show Less