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Lung Cancer Risk Raises By Four Times Due To Shield-Protected Pollutants

Update Date: Feb 05, 2017 06:59 PM EST

It is a widely known fact that people exposed to dirty air or polluted air are more likely to have increased risk of developing lung cancer. A recent study conducted by scientists from Oregon State University found that people worldwide are at risk of developing lung cancer by four times due to shield-protected air pollutants.

The new research reveals that a shield-like protection from tiny particles like aerosol droplets forms around pollutants. These shield-protected pollutants can last longer and can travel farther than what previous climate models predicted. Due to this recent development, scientists are developing a more appropriate model to predict the actual measurements of air pollutants in the world.

Among the pollutants caused by the use of fossil fuels, forest fires, and biofuel consumption, is an air polluting chemical called as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAHs. PAHs are recognized by the US EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) as cancer-causing agents. Past climate change models have difficulty in representing PAHs and fail to correctly stimulate its degradation and actual measurements in the present environment.

In order to determine how far the PAHs can travel while shielded by the tiny particles called as organic aerosols, the scientists compared the results of the new prediction model with the actual measurement of PAHs taken from the top of Mount Bachelor in the Central Oregon Cascade Range.

The research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that the predictions based on the new model coincide with the actual measurements taken from the top of Mount Bachelor. Alarmingly, the measurements taken from the top of Mount Bachelor were four times higher than predicted using the old climate change models. The scientists even found evidence that the aerosols came as far as the Pacific Ocean.

The scientists explain that organic aerosols are gasses, pollutants, and other molecules that clump around a central core. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons also stick to these organic aerosols and can move freely inside the organic aerosol. The shield-like protection afforded due to the organic aerosol helps the PAHs to travel as far as the ozone layer where the aerosol breaks downs and releases the PAHs back in the air.

However, due to the new models, the scientists were able to determine that depending on the conditions, the aerosols can become quite sticky. By trapping the movement of the PAHs and other pollutants due to the sticky aerosol, the pollutants are shielded from degradation and can travel farther than once was predicted.

The implications of the findings show that instead of one cancer death out of 100,000 people as outlined by the World Health Organization, with the new model, the deaths dues to cancer increases by four times or two cancer deaths out of 100,000 people. These statistics are over the limit of the current WHO standards.

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