Fighting pollution one tumor at a time

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By Morgan Hall

By Morgan Hall

It is no secret that Riverside and the Inland areas have increased pollution. Some days the smog can even be seen looming over the city.

More often than not, fine-particle pollution in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties exceeds the federal and state standards of air pollutants – like that comes as a surprise.

But here’s something surprising: according to the Press-Enterprise, researchers’ preliminary findings say that the areas like the Inland region with higher levels of the fine-particle pollutants put people at a higher risk of brain cancer.

Dr. Julia Ljubimova, an oncologist from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, has been conducting research on the brains of rats that have been exposed to air pollution. The findings of this study are somewhat shocking.

The air pollution sets off biological changes that trigger early stages of brain tumors. “I don’t want to scare anyone, because this is preliminary data, but we found something very important,” Dr. Ljubimova said.

An article, entitled “Air pollution effects on brain cause concern,” written by David Danelski of the Press-Enterprise, explains that the work conducted by Cedars-Sinai suggests that fine particles like diesel soot are able to trigger the tumor causing genes people already have inherited, giving the development of brain tumors a head start.

Well, brain tumors are a big deal and the scientists that don’t want to “scare” people sometimes end up doing more harm than good by sparking fear over something that in the mean time they don’t really have solid evidence to support.

Many studies have already linked air pollution with multiple health concerns including heart attacks, early deaths, reduced lung function and lung cancer. As of now, there are just links between pollution and health issues, and no proof that pollution is the main cause of the illnesses.

To be quite frank, the idea of pollution causing people to get brain tumors sounds like another thing scientists are trying to scare people with, or another issue for the public to become frantic over.

At the same time research provides somewhat valid explanations for the links scientists are finding.

In March, a toxicologist from the University of California at Irvine reported that mice found near the Los Angeles Sports Coliseum had brain inflammation and cell injuries linked to the first stages of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. As if brain tumors, cancer and global warming weren’t enough to worry about.

The correlations of brain tumors with air pollution apparently are not just a threat to adults but to children as well.

According to a University of Southern California study of health and illness done in 2007, children living in the more polluted areas of southern California have a higher risk of developing brain tumors.

And if there’s something that southern California has more of than pollution, it’s fires. Unfortunately for firefighters, the combination of pollution and battling blazes poses a double threat.

Studies have shown that firefighters exposed to diesel exhaust on the job are more likely to develop brain cancer than people in other, less exposed occupations. This is because of the ability of microscopic particles containing pollution to travel through blood vessel walls and into the brain, an organ that is otherwise protected.

So, along with running through burning buildings to save people’s lives, firemen now have to worry about the threats of pollution’s harsh effects on their bodies.

I was born and raised in southern California. I’ve lived here my whole life. I’m sure that I have been exposed to mass amounts of pollution and all the fabulous diesel exhaust the Inland Empire has to offer, but my brain seems to function just fine – well, most days.

While all the preliminary data and studies are great at helping people understand the big picture of the harmful effects of pollution, it is also important to show some hard evidence of brain tumors.

Even if it becomes a well known fact that pollution is a major cause of cancer or brain tumors, people shouldn’t stay isolated and afraid of the world.

As much as all this information is relevant to our daily lives and health I would suggest not overreacting and becoming fearful until the “suggestions” of scientists can be replaced by even more solid evidence – or until people are given more alternatives in addition to going green.

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