Restricting vehicle use, reducing coal combustion and closing some pollution-emitting factories are just a few of the measures taken during the 2008 Olympic Games to reduce pollution. Continuing these practices could help China further cut the risk of lung cancer in its citizens

Staci Simonich, study leader and an associate professor of chemistry and environmental toxicology at Oregon State University, along with Yuling Jia, study co-author and a postdoctoral research associate at Oregon State University, and a team of researchers, discovered that the air pollution control measures placed in Beijing for the 2008 Olympic Games could reduce the number of lifetime cases of lung cancer by 10,000 if continued.  

China has become heavily polluted due to the growing population, industrialization, biomass burning and the use of fossil fuels. In Beijing, for example, the number of vehicles increases by 13 percent every year. Approximately 300,000 people die in China annually due to lung cancer and heart disease associated with air pollution. In Beijing alone, the current level of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) would lead to 21,200 lifetime cases of lung cancer. 

In this study, researchers examined the carcinogenic impact and chemical composition of PAH pollutants, which is a group of compounds that come from most types of combustion, including car exhaust and coal-burning power plants.  

PAHs are common pollutants found in China, but other teams of scientists from Oregon State University have found that the PAH levels are so high in some Asian nations that the compounds are traveling across the Pacific Ocean to the United States.  

With growing concerns regarding citizens in China and other Asian nations as well as the United States, the Oregon State University researchers studied the effects the air pollution control measures were having, and concluded that the continuous use of these measures would have a significant impact on the overall risk of lung cancer in citizens. 

"PAH pollution was definitely reduced by the actions China took during the 2008 Olympics, such as restricting vehicle use, decreasing coal combustion and closing some pollution-emitting factories," said Simonich. "That's a positive step, and it shows that if such steps were continued it could lead to a significant reduction in cancer risk from these types of pollutants." 

If continued, the air pollution control measures could cut Beijing's number of lifetime lung cancer risk by almost half, reducing the total by 10,000.  

"This is definitely a health concern and one that deserves attention in China by both the government and the public," said Jia. 

This study was published in Environmental Health Perspectives.

"Google fired a shot heard 'round the world, and now a second American company has answered the call to defend the rights of the Chinese people." -- Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.)

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