Yet another study is out suggesting that air pollution is a considerable risk to our health, as highlighted in today’s Washington Post. This time researchers say if you eat right, exercise, and don’t smoke, your highest cancer risk may come from the chemicals you breath in on your drive home from work–especially if you live in traffic-laden Los Angeles.
Certainly, exposure to very high levels of air pollution can pose serious risks. In fact, high air pollution in developing nations is a serious health problem because wood/cow dung is often burned inside rudimentary residential structures that often lack venting devices like chimneys. But that’s a far cry from the pollution levels anywhere in the United States. At best researchers make the claim that U.S. pollution might be “linked” to serious health problems. This claim is little better than the speculative word “maybe.” Fortunately, the most likely scenario is that risks from all environmental pollution in the United States is very low.
That is why researchers have never been able to demonstrate a substantial cancer risk from environmental pollution. According to the best research, environmental pollution causes up to 2 percent of cancer risks. For details see our overview of cancer and chemicals. For more information on why we need to panic about air pollution, I suggest you take a look at research by Joel Schwartz of the American Enterprise Institute.