According to the World Health Organization, exposure to air pollution was responsible for approximately 7 million deaths worldwide (one in every eight deaths) in 2012. In addition to its role in causing respiratory disease, indoor and outdoor air pollution has also been linked to cardiovascular disease, stroke, and certain forms of cancer.
Dr Maria Neira, Director of WHO’s Department of Public Health, recently stated that “few risks have a greater impact on global health today than air pollution.” This problem is compounded by the fact that according to the United Nations, 54% of the world’s population (approximately 3.9 billion people) live in urban areas. Moreover, this number is anticipated to increase to 66% (surpassing 6 billion people) by the year 2050. In 2014 there exist 28 mega-cities, which by definition contain more than 10 million people.
Tanning is the direct result of skin damage caused by exposure to solar radiation. Solar radiation absorbed by the skin damages DNA directly, as in the case of UVB radiation, or indirectly as in the case of UVA radiation. Importantly, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S with more than 2 million new cases diagnosed annually and 90% of all non-melanoma skin cancers are associated with exposure to
ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Melanoma is also the most common form of cancer for young adults 25-29 years of age, the second most common cancer in people 15-29 years of age, and accounts for the vast majority of skin cancer related deaths.
In addition to the sun exposure, the largest contributor to our daily exposure of radiation is exposure to natural radiation in the form of radon gas and cosmic rays. Radon gas is odorless, colorless, and tasteless and as it escapes from the soils and rocks underground it enters the water we drink and the air we breathe. Cosmic rays, high energy particles in space, are largely prevented from reaching the Earth’s surface by the atmosphere. Therefore, exposure limits are dictated by elevation, e.g. average exposure roughly doubles for every 6000 foot increase in elevation. As a consequence, air travel adds to one’s daily exposure and the amount of extra exposure depends on how high the plane flies and how long you spend in the air.
More men and women die of lung cancer in the U.S. than any other type of cancer. While smoking is the main cause of lung cancer, a common misconception is that lung cancer is strictly a smoker's disease. 9 out of 10 lung cancers are linked to smoking, however, non-smokers are still at risk. Secondhand smoke, air pollution, radon gas, poor dietary habits, and family history all are risk factors for people who have never smoked.
...we may pay a price with respect to our well-being because we are vulnerable to environmental insults, such as air pollution, car exhaust, ultraviolet light, and toxic carcinogens in cigarette smoke, food additives, industrial and household chemicals.
Over time, exposure to these insults damages DNA, cellular machinery, and also weakens our immune system. Unfortunately, the problem is getting worse as our environment becomes more polluted.