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ENVIRONMENT REPORT - March 22, 2002: Air Pollution/Lung Cancer - 2002-03-22

This is the VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT.

Researchers have completed a major study on the health effects of air pollution common in many large American cities. The study shows that air pollution increases the risk of death from lung cancer and other diseases. They say people living in heavily polluted areas have a sixteen percent higher risk of dying of lung cancer than people in less polluted areas. They say the risk is similar to that of someone living with a person who smokes cigarettes.

The latest study involved five-hundred-thousand people in more than one-hundred American cities. The researchers examined their health records from Nineteen-Eighty-Two through Nineteen-Ninety-Eight. They also gathered information about air pollution in the cities where the people lived.

Researchers say the higher lung cancer risk is linked to pollution caused by small particles of soot from coal-burning power centers, factories and motor vehicles.

Power centers built before Nineteen-Eighty produce about half the nation’s electricity. However, they also produce most of the power industry’s dangerous pollutants. These include sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and soot.Air pollution levels have decreased during the past twenty years because of better enforcement of clean air laws. Yet levels of small particle pollution in major cities are at or above pollution limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The E-P-A set new pollution limits in Nineteen-Ninety-Seven after studies showed a link between small particle pollution and lung cancer. However, power companies have taken legal action against the agency to delay the restrictions.Environmental groups have long suggested that pollution from power centers has led to a sharp increase in deaths from lung diseases. They have urged action to either close the factories or force them to put in anti-pollution equipment. The American Lung Association says the latest findings show the urgent need to clean up aging power factories.

Experts who have spent years examining the links between pollution and sicknesses generally support the latest study. The Environmental Protection Agency says it will consider the research as part of its continuing study of air quality rules on small particle pollution.

This VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT was written by Cynthia Kirk.