An 8-year-girl has become China's youngest lung cancer patient, according to an official news report, with her illness directly blamed on air pollution. The girl had been living near busy streets in Jiangsu Province, which the New York Times reports is one of the most polluted areas outside of northern China.
The report claims that lung cancer is the leading form of cancer in China, echoing the World Health Organization's recent declaration that air pollution is a leading cause of cancer worldwide. PM 2.5, the fine particulate matter most harmful to human health, is particularly dense in the rapidly industrializing nation. According to the South China Morning Post, deaths from lung cancer in Beijing -- where PM 2.5 levels in January were so high as to warrant a so-called "airpocalypse" -- rose by 56 percent from 2001 to 2010. Many lung cancer patients in Jiansu, where the girl lives, are in their 30s and 40s, the report said.
Worldwide, lung cancer is the most common cancer, accounting for 1.3 million deaths per year. But in China, the Times reports, it's taking a particularly brutal toll:
Earlier this year, several scientific reports raised alarms about the staggering damage caused by air pollution to the health of Chinese citizens. One report, based on data from the 2010 Global Burden of Disease Study, said that outdoor air pollution contributed to 1.2 million premature deaths in China in 2010, which was nearly 40 percent of the total number of premature deaths around the globe attributed to air pollution. In July, a study published by The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a prominent American journal, concluded that the heavy use of coal-based heating north of the Huai River in China had shortened the lifespans of Chinese living there by an average of five years.