Cancer In The Air We Breathe

First definitive link between cancer risk and extended exposure to fine particles of pollution from power plants and diesel engines.

Published: 20-Mar-2002

Washington area health experts and regional transportation specialists seeking changes in environmental quality are seizing on a recently published study that shows local residents face an above-average risk of contracting lung cancer from fine particles in the air. They say the goal of meeting federal air quality standards by 2005 is at risk.

Despite improvements in some measures of local air quality over the last two decades, the study showed fine-particle pollution from power plants, industrial emissions and diesel engines severe enough to increase disease risk. It compared the effects of this kind of pollution with second-hand cigarette smoke.

"[The study] adds urgency," said D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), chairman of the region's Transportation Planning Board, which votes on all road and transit projects and makes sure they conform to pollution limits. "The different governments [in the Washington area] are still unenthusiastic about finding the dollars, because clean air costs" a lot, he said.



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