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Chances are, we can all agree isn’t great for our health. And it doesn’t just affect our lungs. In fact, dirty, smoggy air has recently been added to a list of known carcinogens by The International Agency for Research on Cancer.

We’re getting down and dirty with air pollution and its new classification as a cancer-causing agent.

What’s the Deal?

Air pollution is defined as contamination both indoors and outdoors by any chemical, physical, or biological agent. Pollution certainly looks gross and can be pretty smelly (it's also been linked to and other serious health conditions) but it has just now been officially classified as an environmental factor that can cause cancer.

, aka substances and environmental factors that can lead to cancer, do not cause cancer in every case. Many substances (including air pollution) are only carcinogenic if a person is for a certain length of time, or in a certain way (e.g. swallowing versus touching).

Researchers use to evaluate the cancer-causing potential of carcinogens. The ranks carcinogens from highest danger (Group 1: carcinogenic to humans) to lowest potential danger (Group 4: probably not carcinogenic to humans). Most of the agents in each category have been linked with only certain kinds of cancer, not all types.

The airborne particles that make up pollution were classified as “” carcinogens, meaning there’s sufficient evidence they may cause cancer in humans. Other carcinogens in Group 1 ­include alcoholic beverages, tobacco, asbestos, and workplace exposure as a painter or rubber manufacturer. It’s fair to say that many of us expose ourselves to dangerous carcinogens intentionally and unintentionally on a regular basis.


Okay, we get it. Air pollution isn’t just about our lungs. Despite the scary link to multiple cancers, there’s also some good news. The report, compiled by the American Lung Association, shows the battle against airborne pollutants has made some serious strides. The , which defines the Environmental Protection Agency’s responsibilities for protecting and improving the nation’s air quality, is predicted to at least 230,000 deaths and save $2 trillion annually by 2020. And there are ways that we as individuals can , like checking forecasts for high air pollution days to know when to take that workout to the gym. It’s also smart to walk, bike, carpool, or use public transportation to reduce exhaust levels.


1. The of air pollution are household combustion devices (such as a gas range or furnace), motor vehicles, industrial facilities, and forest fires.

2. Pollution in China can in the U.S. In just five days, the jet stream is able to carry heavy air pollution from China to the states.

3. People who live in places with high levels of air pollutants have a 20 percent from lung cancer than those who live in less-polluted places.

4. is nearly 10 times greater than levels considered safe by the World Health Organization. The average car in Pakistan emits 25 percent more carbon than the average car in the U.S.

5. Air pollution hovers at in nearly every major city in the world.

6. Mongolia is the world’s (with an air pollution level 14 times higher than the World Health Organization’s standard threat level), and is home to Ulaanbaatar, one of the world’s most polluted cities.

7. Children are to air pollution than adults because they breathe even more air per pound of body weight (The average adult sucks in over 3,000 gallons of air every day.).

8. On average, air pollution takes one to two years off the typical .

9. It’s not all about planes, trains, and automobiles. from animal waste also contribute to air pollution.

10. Pollution can negatively affect our hearts. A from the American Heart Association links cardiac arrests to high levels of ozone and air pollution.

11. Dirty air has also been associated with incidences of .

Bottom line, air pollution can be seriously bad for our health. The best way to deal? It helps, even if just a little, to be conscious of our own . Rather than contributing to air pollution, each of us can work to help reduce its effects on our communities and future generations.

What do you have to say about air pollution? Let us know in the comment section below or find the author on Twitter .