Risk of Cancer Caused by Air Pollution on the Decline

The number of Americans expected to contract cancer as a result of inhaling toxic air pollution has dropped according to recent estimates by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Based on a recent EPA report that looked at 2002 levels of air pollution, it is estimated that 36 out of every 1 million U.S. residents is expected to develop cancer from inhaling toxic air pollution. This number is down from a similar EPA estimate released in 2006, which estimated 42 cancer cases per 1 million individuals. The older study was based off of 1999 air pollution levels.

The numbers represent a national average, and the EPA took precaution to stress that the rate of expected cancer cases related to air pollution vary dramatically depending on the particular living environment. For example, communities that feature a high level of industrial air pollution, such as areas in northern Mississippi and central southern Kentucky, have pollution-related cancer rates estimated above 100 people per 1 million.

People living in large cities such as New York, Chicago, Pittsburg and Los Angeles are also at a higher risk. This is due to high volumes of pollution created by vehicle traffic, gas stations, construction equipment and even dry cleaners.

The EPA’s figures are based on data culled from 180 pollutants. The EPA attributes the drop in expected cancer cases related to air pollution to be a result of improved fuel standards and fuel efficiency of motor vehicles.