Research Uncovers Link between Lung Cancer and Pollution

By  //  July 24, 2023

The University College London and the Francis Crick Institute recently concluded a long-term study focused on air pollution and its link to lung cancer. The respondents were people who do not smoke or had not smoked their entire life.

It is a component of the TRACERx Lung Study, which is a Cancer Research UK-funded program intended to provide information on lung cancer – how it develops and evolves.

Chief Clinician Professor Charles Swanton is one of the scientists who discovered how exposure to toxic air can lead to the growth and mutation of cancer-causing cells in the lungs. He, along with the other researchers, hoped to find new cancer treatments. The professor presented the research at the ESMO (European Society for Medical Oncology) conference held earlier this month. 

According to the research, it is fine particulate matter that makes the cells active and cancerous. This is why many of the responders who were non-smokers eventually get lung cancer. 

Professor Swanton acknowledged that controlling air pollution is difficult, which is why it is ultimately more dangerous than smoking, the number one lung cancer risk globally.

Air pollution is everywhere, so exposure is more constant, and more people breathe in toxic pollutants compared to those who inhale or get exposed to cigarette smoke chemicals. In the UK alone, approximately one in 10 cases of lung cancer are due to air pollution. Additionally, around 6,000 non-smokers succumbed to lung cancer year after year. In 2019, the global number of lung cancer deaths linked to the pollutant PM2.5 or fine particulate matter was reported to be at least 300,000.

The research involved several phases of experiments and used mice that had lung cancer-linked mutations in an EGFR or Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor gene. 

What the research implies is the need for governments and environmental authorities to step up their game and provide concrete actions that can help reduce air pollution. 

Diesel emissions scandal

Air pollution has several sources and one of the most talked about nowadays is diesel emissions.      

In September 2015, the world learned more about emissions after authorities in the United States called on the Volkswagen Group for the alleged use of defeat devices in VW and Audi vehicles. Affected cars and vans were sold to US drivers despite the manufacturer’s knowledge about the cheat software. This became known as the Dieselgate scandal.

A defeat device is engineered to determine when a vehicle is being tested so it can artificially reduce and mask emissions levels to within the World Health Organization-mandated limits. Thus, authorities are led to believe the vehicle in front of them is an efficient, environmentally friendly one.

However, this is far from the truth as the vehicle switches to its default setting once driven in real-road conditions. It emits massive volumes of NOx or nitrogen oxide emissions, a group of gases that negatively impacts human health and the environment.

In 2018, another carmaker was implicated in the diesel emissions scandal: Mercedes-Benz. US authorities discovered defeat devices in several Mercedes diesel vehicles. American owners of the vehicle then joined together to bring forward a class-action lawsuit against the carmaker. 

Other carmakers involved in the scandal include BMW, Alfa Romeo, Peugeot, Renault, Nissan, and Vauxhall. 

Authorities and legal representatives of the affected carmakers successfully imposed fines, vehicle recalls, and brought claims cases to court over the years. Nevertheless, thousands upon thousands of carmakers in the UK and Europe are still not well-informed about the effects and dangers of defeat devices in their vehicles.

Effects of diesel emissions

As mentioned earlier, vehicles equipped with defeat devices emit excessive levels of nitrogen oxide emissions. NOx is a highly reactive gas that has nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and nitric oxide (NO) as primary components. It is dangerous for the environment and human health.

Smog, the yellowish or brownish colour hovering above cities, is produced by nitrogen oxides. Additionally, when NOx and SO2 or sulphur dioxide react and are released into the atmosphere, they produce acid rain. 

Nitrogen oxide also produces ground-level ozone, a pollutant that causes plants and crops to become weak and prone to frost and damage. It stunts the growth of plants as well.

People who have mental health issues may experience symptoms linked to depression and anxiety when they are regularly exposed to NOx emissions. Cognitive abilities may be affected, too, and Alzheimer’s disease may eventually develop.

The most common – and alarming – effects of exposure to NOx emissions are on a person’s overall health. The impact can be mild or severe, depending on the frequency and level of exposure. 

Low-level NOx exposure health impacts include:

  • Eye irritation
  • Chronic headaches
  • Appetite loss
  • Fluid in the lungs and other lung problems
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Asthma and other respiratory issues, such as bronchitis and emphysema

Exposure to high levels of NOx emissions has serious health impacts:

  • Asphyxia
  • Vocal cords spasm
  • Chronic lung function reduction
  • Cancer
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Premature death

Diesel claim

Car owners affected by the defeat device are encouraged to bring forward a diesel claim against their manufacturer for violation of emissions regulations and endangering lives and the environment. 

Find out from if you are eligible to make a diesel claim. They’ll help you determine how to move forward with your diesel compensation claim. Visit their website here –