Excess air pollution has been linked to a number of different health problems. The latest from a new, first-of-its kind study shows this pollution could increase the risk for mouth cancer.
Researchers collected cancer, health and insurance records for more than 480 thousand (482,659) Taiwanese men. They compared the records to data from 66 air quality monitoring stations throughout the country, to see whether specific kinds of pollutants were associated with cancer rates.
These particles come from tailpipes and power plants — anywhere fuel is burned. They're tiny — a quarter the diameter of a human hair or smaller. And they can be full of heavy metals and cancer causing agents. The researchers found as the amount of this particulate matter in the atmosphere increased, so did the number of mouth cancer cases.
We're still learning about how these pollutants actually harm the body. This study can't show whether or how the particles cause cancer. But earlier studies have found people with long-term pollution exposure scored lower on verbal and math tests. In some cases pollution might even cause their brains to shrink.
Protecting from air pollution can be complicated and expensive, but experts say anyone can safeguard themselves by getting a HEPA filter or making sure their windows are sealed to help lessen exposure.