If you develop a disease, the amount of pollution in the air you breathe may determine how sick you get. Men who live in polluted areas are more likely to develop lung cancer, and SARS patients affected by air pollution are more likely to die. This is important news in the wake of the new Clean Air regulations, which mean that some areas of the U.S. will end up with more pollution than others.

Norwegian researchers studied 16,000 men for almost 30 years and found that the greater the concentration of nitrogen dioxide in the air where they lived, the greater their chance of developing lung cancer. Scientists have always suspected that pollution might affect lung cancer rates, but were never able to provide evidence of this before. However sulfur dioxide, a much more common pollutant, does not seem to affect lung cancer rates. The study was only done on men, but it can be assumed that pollution affects women the same way.

However, a new 10 year study shows that women smokers have twice the risk of developing lung cancer as men. Radiologist Claudia I. Henschke says, “We found that women had twice the risk of developing lung cancer as men, independent of how much they smoked, their age, or the size and textures of nodules found in their lungs. There is as of yet no clear consensus why women are at increased risk.”

Pollution also helps determine whether you’ll die from SARS. A new study shows that SARS patients are more than twice as likely to die if they live in polluted areas, probably because their lungs are already more damaged. This may be another reason why SARS hit Asia so hard, since there is much more air pollution there than in the West.

Studies of how pollution affects illness are becoming more important, as the government?s new clean air laws are about to go into effect, in which power plants can “buy and sell” air pollution points, meaning some areas of the U.S. will have more pollution than others.

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