Victims of China's Air Pollution: Lung Cancer in 8-Year-Olds

Though smoking is on the decline in China, lung cancer rates are rising. Twenty-year olds have joined seniors as likely patients, attributed to the toxic clouds containing particulates that regularly envelope China's eastern cities.

2 minute read

December 29, 2013, 11:00 AM PST

By Irvin Dawid


"From 2002 to 2011, the incidence of lung cancer in Beijing rose to 63 cases per 100,000, from 39.6, according to municipal health authorities. Nationwide in the last three decades, an era in which China opened up its economy and industrialized, deaths from lung cancer have risen 465%," writes Barbara Demick.

"When I see patients who are not smokers with no other risk factors, we have to assume that the most probable cause is pollution," said Bai Chunxue, who works at Shanghai's Zhongshan Hospital and is chairman of the Shanghai Respiratory Research Institute.

Back in the 1970s, when (he) was in medical school, the textbook lung cancer patient was a chain-smoking male in his 60s. Nowadays, Bai, one of the physicians who treated the teen, sees so many who are still in their 20s that the cases blend together.

To be sure, "smoking is still cited as the leading cause of lung cancer," notes Demick. Smoking's chief competitor for causing lung cancer now is "the fine particulate matter known as PM 2.5, the microscopic particles from exhaust, coal smoke and vehicle fumes that can burrow their way into lungs."

There still is a veil of secrecy in the government on the effects of the toxic air pollution despite making headlines regularly in Chinese and international newspapers.

(C)onnecting the dots between dirty air and the rising cancer rate is risky. The doctor who first disclosed the case of the 8-year-old girl with lung cancer last month to a reporter from the state-run China News Service appears to have been publicly silenced.

Perhaps that will change when China values the public health of its citizens as much as it does its economy. "Ten years ago, it was sensitive to talk about smoking because the tobacco industry was so important to the Chinese economy. Now it feels safe to talk about smoking," stated cancer researcher Dr. Wei Zhang of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013 in Los Angeles Times - World

Green rapid transit bus pulled into station in dedicated lane.

Indiana Once Again Considering Ban on Dedicated Transit Lanes

The proposed legislation would impact the construction of planned IndyGo Blue Line, the third phase of the city’s bus rapid transit system.

February 25, 2024 - Fox 59

Aerial view of New York City architecture with augmented reality visualization, blue digital holograms over buildings and skyscrapers

4 Ways to Use AI in Urban Planning and City Design

With the ability to predict trends, engage citizens, enhance resource allocation, and guide decision-making, artificial intelligence has the potential to serve as planners’ very own multi-tool.

February 20, 2024 - ArchDaily

View from shore of Sepulveda Basin water catchment basin with marsh plants along shore.

LA’s ‘Spongy’ Infrastructure Captured Almost 9 Billion Gallons of Water

The city is turning away from stormwater management practices that shuttle water to the ocean, building infrastructure that collects and directs it underground instead.

February 25, 2024 - Wired

Ice fishing tents surrounded by fence in Safe Outdoor Space for unhoused people in parking lot in Denver, Colorado.

An Affordable Housing Model for Indigenous Americans

Indigenous people make up a disproportionately high percentage of the unhoused population, but many programs designed to assist them don’t reach those most in need.

March 1 - High Country News

An electric bicycle is shown with the legs of a human who is riding the e-bike.

Oregon Bill Would Ban E-Bikes for Riders Under 16

State lawmakers seek to change Oregon e-bike laws following the death of a 15-year old last summer.

March 1 - Oregon Capital Chronical

Aerial view of canal cut into beach in Charlestow, Rhode Island with boats parked in sand.

Northeastern Waterways More Polluted After Wet Year

Intense rains washed more runoff into local bodies of water, while warmer temperatures contributed to the growth of an invasive bloom.

March 1 - University of Rhode Island

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.