A New Map of the US Reveals Cancer-Causing Air Pollution in Great Detail

How toxic is your air, on average?
Irmak Bayrakdar
ProPublica's air pollution map. ProPublica

One of the leading causes of death on a global scale, cancer has claimed countless lives in the past and will keep on doing so. In 2018, 18.1 million new cases and 9.5 million cancer-related deaths were reported worldwide. Scientists estimate that by 2040, the number of new cancer cases per year is expected to rise to 29.5 million and the number of cancer-related deaths to 16.4 million. That means a lot of pain and suffering for both the cancer patients and their families and loved ones.

While the most common causes of cancer include genetic mutations, a big portion of cancers are caused by environmental and lifestyle factors. That's right, living in polluted areas where air and water are contaminated can easily lead to cancer. 

Now, ProPublica, a nonprofit organization, analyzed the data regarding just how much toxic air pollution industrial facilities emit, and has published the most detailed map of the cancer-causing industrial air pollution in the United States, ever. And it's not looking bright. The hazardous chemicals these facilities produce in these cities and states could add more to the risk of cancer in their respective communities.

A New Map of the US Reveals Cancer-Causing Air Pollution in Great Detail
Source: ProPublica

Creating a detailed map of cancerous air pollution

The analysis behind the map is the aggregated result of a five-year-long EPA data using the reports between 2014 and 2018 combined with more than 1,000 toxic hot spots across the United States. What's worrying is that an estimated 250,000 people living in these hot spots that are exposed to these chemicals could be at grave risk of cancer.

ProPublica reports that thousands of facilities that are featured on the map are considered large sources of toxic air pollution and that they need to submit a report to the government each year on their chemical emissions.

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While this data was open to the public in the previous years in the form of long pages of reports, they were hard to understand for the public. By creating a nationwide map that shows the estimated excess cancer risk from industrial sources ProPublica aims to spread the alarming facts with greater masses.

Browsing the industrial emissions rate in your hometown is relatively easy. Just click on a hot spot (if you live in one), search for your city on the map to see the situation, or just type in your address to find the estimated level of air pollution-related cancer risk at your location. 

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