Outdoor air contaminated with cancer-causing substancesListen /
The air we breathe has become polluted with a mixture of cancer-causing substances, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).
The agency says although air pollution is already known to increase risks for a wide range of diseases such as respiratory and heart diseases, recent studies indicate that exposure to outdoor pollution causes lung cancer and increased risk of bladder cancer.
The agency says in 2010, over 223,000 deaths from lung cancer worldwide resulted from air pollution.
IARC, which is a specialized agency of the World Health Organisation, says the level of exposure to air pollution has significantly increased in some parts of the world, particularly in rapidly industrializing countries with large populations.
The agency says the classification of air pollution as carcinogenic to humans is an important step and that it should send a strong signal to the international community to take action to reduce air pollution without further delay.
Dr Dana Loomis is from IARC.
"There are rapidly industrializing middle-income countries in Asia and South America that are particularly notable. Many people are familiar with increases of air pollution in China. China has taken steps to reduce pollution there, but they are certainly not alone in having problems of air quality. This is a very wide spread problem among the new group of industrialized countries throughout the world. Air pollution is really one of the classic problems of public health. Because the air belongs to everybody. Nobody has private air and we are all responsible for it. And so I think it is important to make the point that this really needs collective public health action to solve the problem."
IRAC predicts that the number of new cancer cases reported annually worldwide will double to reach 25 million over the next 20 years, with most cases expected to be found in the developing world.
Patrick Maigua, United Nations Radio, Geneva.