Utahns Lesss Likely to Die From Pollution

By By U Wire

By U Wire

PROVO?Utahns have roughly a 4 percent less chance of dying from lung cancer due to air pollution than the national average, according to a study published Wednesday.

The study, led by Arden Pope, a Brigham Young University professor and environmental economics specialist, found minuscule particles of pollutants emitted by automobiles, power plants and factories significantly increase the risk of dying from lung cancer.

“The findings of this study provide the strongest evidence to date that long-term exposure to air pollution is an important risk factor for cardiopulmonary and lung cancer mortality,” Pope said.

The research was published in an issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. It was funded by a grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and government grants to the New York University School of Medicine.

According to Ken Simmons, an environmental scientist at the Utah air-monitoring center, the average annual level of fine particulate matter in the Wasatch Front is 9 to 12 micrograms per cubic meter. A polluted city is defined as having fine particulate matter that exceeds 20 micrograms per cubic meter.

By this definition, Utah is not considered a polluted state.

Fine particulate matter is generated by combustion, most commonly produced by automobiles, manufacturing and coal-fired power plants.

Pope’s study found for every 10 micrograms per cubic meter increase of fine particulate matter from zero, there is an 8 percent increase in lung cancer deaths.

The researchers found the risk of dying from lung cancer due to high levels of air pollution is comparable to the risk of living with secondhand smoke.

The scientists compared their results to research done by the Environmental Protection Agency linking secondhand smoke to lung cancer after obtaining statistically estimated figures of the risk due to pollution.

“The lung cancer risk that we found associated with living in a polluted city in the U.S. is comparable to the risk reported by the EPA for a nonsmoker living with a smoker,” George Thurston, associate professor of environmental medicine at NYU School of Medicine and co author, said in a news release.

Pope said the study’s findings are “good news” in that fine particulate matter levels are controllable.

Since the study began in 1982, the annual U.S. average of fine particulate matter has dropped 33 percent.

“If we can further reduce our exposure to this risk factor,” Pope said, “we can reduce the number of deaths attributed to heart disease, lung cancer and respiratory illnesses.”