Cancer Risk From Air Pollution Has Dropped by 65% in Southern Calif.
The risk of cancer from air pollution has declined by about 65% in Southern California since 2005, according to a draft report released Thursday by the South Coast Air Quality Management District, the Los Angeles Times reports (Barboza, Los Angeles Times, 10/2).
Details of Report
For the report, researchers collected data from 10 monitoring stations every six days between June 2012 and July 2013. They combined the data with known high-pollution areas to map locations of particular concern (Orlowski, Orange County Register, 10/2).
The data were based on an assumed 70-year lifetime (Los Angeles Times, 10/2).
The study was the fourth such report, with the first conducted in 1987 (Pritchard, AP/Miami Herald, 10/2).
Researchers found that the highest cancer risk was in the port areas of Los Angeles and Long Beach, where there were more than 1,050 cases of cancer per million individuals (Los Angeles Times, 10/2). Other areas with high rates were:
- Central Los Angeles;
- Populated areas in Riverside and San Bernardino counties; and
- Southern Los Angeles communities.
The lowest cancer risk was found in the northern half of Orange County, where the risk of cancer fell from more than 1,000 cases per million individuals to fewer than 400 cases per million (Orange County Register, 10/2). Less-populated areas of Coachella Valley and Southwest Riverside County also had lower cancer rates (Los Angeles Times, 10/2).
Researchers said the lower cancer risk likely resulted from efforts to reduce pollution from diesel particulates, which dropped by 70% from 2005 to 2012.
Ninety percent of the remaining pollution is from cars, trucks, trains, ships and other mobile sources, officials said.
Researchers noted that while Southern California has the highest air pollution in the U.S., it is difficult to compare with other regions because there are few comparable in-depth studies of air pollutant-related cancer rates in other areas.
The report now will be open for public review for 90 days before being officially published in spring 2015 (Orange County Register, 10/2).
Cancer Risk Underestimated
Despite the decrease in pollution, researchers said that the cancer risk from air pollutants has been underestimated. Officials said cancer risk is 2.7 times higher than previously believed (Orange County Register, 10/2).
Philip Fine, assistant deputy executive officer for SCAQMD, said that "new information is suggesting that these air toxics have a larger effect than previously believed" (Kim, "KPCC News," KPCC, 10/2).
Barry Wallerstein, executive officer of SCAQMD, said that levels of air pollution "that are still occurring in Southern California are still too high and need to be reduced" (Orange County Register, 10/2).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.