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December 14, 2009

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Lung cancer risk higher in eastern region: study

PEOPLE in eastern China likely have a higher risk of developing lung cancer than those in western China due to extensive burning of biomass fuels in homes and factories, according to a study.

The study, by researchers with Environment Canada's air quality research division and Chinese scientists, based its findings on measured levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in different parts of China.

PAHs are cancer-causing chemical compounds that are released into the air when fuels like oil and coal are burnt in factories and homes.

Although some families have switched to cleaner fuels, more than 70 percent of households continue to burn biomass fuels - such as coal, wood and dung - in open stoves in poorly ventilated homes for cooking and heating. That leads to severe indoor air pollution.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, said PAH levels were higher in eastern China, particularly in the North China Plain, east Sichuan Basin and part of Guizhou Province.

Although these provinces only account for 12 percent of China's land mass, they make up 48 percent of the nation's biomass consumption and 66 percent of industrial-coking coal use, Ma Jianmin and the other researchers wrote.

While noting that there were pockets outside eastern China with high PAH levels, the researchers concluded that "the lung cancer risk in eastern China was higher than in western China."

They said rural dwellers, women and children appeared to be more vulnerable to cancer-causing PAHs.


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