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Air pollution a carcinogen, says WHO

Air pollution a carcinogen, says WHO

Agency says smog has become a leading cause of lung cancer

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The Central Valley’s bad air quality could be leading to more cases of lung cancer in Kings County.

The World Health Organization has officially classified outdoor air pollution as a carcinogen and has stated that it’s become a leading cause for lung cancer, due to data recently released by the International Agency of Research on Cancer in partnership with the organization. As pollution rates continue to climb, the rate of cancer will also increase.

“I’m not really surprised,” said Kings County Public Health Officer Michael Mac Lean. “You can see a lot of haze in the Valley. There’s a lot of bad stuff in the air, so it makes sense that some of that would be carcinogens.”

According to the data the center collected from 2010, 223,000 people died from lung cancer worldwide due to air pollution. Depending on location, the risk is as dangerous, or even more so, than smoking.

The data also shows it’s possible pollution could also increase the risk of bladder cancer. Air pollution is already known to increase the risk of respiratory and heart diseases.

“We are very aware of the fact that air pollution at the high levels we see in the Valley does have a health impact,” said Jaime Holt, chief communications officer for the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District. “We’ve been working collaboratively with the public and business community to try and make improvements.”

Mac Lean said one of the biggest contributors to air pollution is large personal vehicles. He said he believes Kings County and the world as a whole need to try to change the car culture to help reduce emissions.

“There are a lot of big vehicles out there,” he said. “They put out a lot of emissions. Everyone says they’re concerned about air pollution, but when you look at people’s choices when it comes to things like vehicles, it’s clear they don’t care enough.”

Mac Lean said people need to do more to help, such as downsizing their vehicles to smaller, cleaner ones or using them less.

“We need to do a better job when it comes to vehicles,” he said. “We’re making good strides in other areas, but we still need people to understand that they need to do their part in helping the process. What you have to decide is: Are you willing to give up your truck or SUV?”

On the business side, Holt said the Valley has seen an 80 percent reduction in emissions by businesses and industries over the past 20 years due to new laws and regulations. She said more businesses are using better practices and greener equipment.

“It’s an issue that’s really a balancing act between cleaning up the air as much as possible without making things so inconvenient that businesses leave the Valley,” she said. “We work hard to try to find a happy medium.”

The reporter can be reached at 583-2429 and at jluiz@hanfordsentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @JosephL_HS.

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