Skip to main content

Air Pollution - The Science

Air pollution is not usually a problem in BC, but it’s good to know the facts if you are travelling in areas with poor air quality.

Air pollution facts
Air pollution is a Group 1 carcinogen, which means that it is known that exposure to air pollution can lead to the development of certain cancers.

  • You can find air pollution in the exhaust from vehicles; emission from factory chimneys and coal-fired power plants; and indoors in homes using coal or wood-fired stoves for heating and cooking.
  • The more you're around high levels of air pollution, the higher your risk for certain cancers will be. A high level means the pollution is between 7 and 10 on the Air Quality Index.
  • Everyone is exposed to some air pollution, but the more you are exposed to higher levels, the higher your risk of getting cancer.
  • People who live or work in polluted areas, or close to a source of pollution, have a higher risk for developing certain types of cancer.

Did you know that...

  • Outdoor air pollution is a mix of many different pollutants, including very small particles that can get deep into our lungs and even into our blood.
  • Air pollution is now the world's largest single environmental health risk. For the most part, it is not a large problem in British Columbia.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that in 2012, one in eight of total global deaths was due to air pollution exposure.


Air inside your home can also be polluted. Major sources of indoor air pollution include:

  • Second-hand smoke (see our information on tobacco)
  • Radon from the ground (see our information on radon)
  • Indoor burning of coal or wood
  • Chemicals from paint or cleaning products

What types of cancers are linked with exposure to air pollution?

Exposure to air pollution can increase your chances of developing:

  • Lung cancer
  • Bladder cancer

Here are some BC statistics (2015 data*) on the number of new diagnoses (male and female) for the type of cancers that likely were caused by exposure to air pollution:

  • Lung: 189

* ComPARe Study: Canadian Population Attributable Risk of Cancer

Tab Heading

Tab Heading

SOURCE: Air Pollution - The Science ( )
Page printed: . Unofficial document if printed. Please refer to SOURCE for latest information.

Copyright © BC Cancer. All Rights Reserved.

    Copyright © 2022 Provincial Health Services Authority