Chimneys, the flue-filled spaces where chimney flues are heated to create steam, are the main sources of CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels.
But smoke from these flue systems has been linked to a range of cancers, including lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, and even cancer of the ovaries.
To address these concerns, researchers from the University of Texas at Austin and the University at Buffalo have now studied the air from chimney systems.
Their study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, suggests that chimney emissions are not the primary source of cancer.
In fact, the authors argue that there are other factors that contribute to lung cancer risk.
First, the researchers say that smoke from the chimneys of oil and gas extraction facilities contributes more than 30% of the CO2 that is released into the atmosphere.
Second, the research suggests that some of these gases may be leaking from chimnes.
“We have shown that the smoke from oil and natural gas extraction chimneys can be associated with increased risk of lung cancer,” says lead author Emily A. Brown, a professor of epidemiology and health sciences at the University’s College of Public Health.
The findings are based on a longitudinal study of 1,622 Texas residents aged 18 to 74 who completed a questionnaire about their tobacco and tobacco smoke exposure.
Researchers assessed smokers’ exposure to smoke from three types of chimneys: gas, coal, and gas-fired steam.
The researchers found that smoke emitted from chimneys of oil-and-gas extraction and coal-fired gas extraction did not contribute significantly to cancer risk, even after accounting for age, sex, and socioeconomic status.
But there was an association between exposure to methane gas and lung cancer.
Methane is a greenhouse gas that is emitted into the air when natural gas is burned.
The scientists also found that exposure to carbon monoxide was associated with an increased risk for lung cancer in people with a history of COPD.
These findings are consistent with previous studies, which have shown no significant association between the use of coal- and gas flue ventilation and cancer.
The team’s findings were similar to a recent study that showed no link between methane and lung cancers.
A separate study from the same researchers found a link between the consumption of a range the chemicals used in gas and coal combustion, including the use, storage, and disposal of flue gases.
“This is a big finding, and one that shows the power of longitudinal studies,” says Daniel B. Gans, an epidemiologist at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
“But this is the first time we have shown it for the first type of flues.”
Brown and her colleagues also studied the relationship between exposure and CO2 levels in the air.
In their study, the team found that those who used flue gas had higher levels of CO 2 in their lungs than those who didn’t.
The results were consistent with studies that have found that CO 2 levels are linked to the risk of cancer and that it is possible to mitigate the effects of elevated CO 2 on the body.
Brown is currently studying the relationship of gas and CO 2 emissions to the development of the disease known as COPD, which is characterized by chronic obstructing pulmonary disease.
A growing body of evidence suggests that this lung disease is linked to exposure to air pollutants such as CO 2 and methane.
The problem is that this connection has not been tested for in the large-scale epidemiological studies that are currently used to assess the health of individuals.
To test the link between exposure, Brown and colleagues measured CO 2 concentrations in the lungs of 4,972 people who had previously smoked.
Those who had ever smoked and those who had never smoked had a higher risk of developing COPD than people who never smoked.
The study also found a positive association between CO 2 exposure and lung-cancer risk.
In the long-term, this suggests that people who have never smoked, or those who have been smokers for a long time, have a greater risk of CO-related lung cancer than those with long-standing lung cancer history.
Brown says that the findings provide additional support for existing guidelines that recommend regular testing of the air outside of workplaces for pollutants.
“The best way to reduce the risk is to make sure that the workplace environment is clean,” she says.
“If you’re not careful, CO2 can accumulate in the environment and then leak out into the environment.
People who are already exposed to CO2 should be tested.”
This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health (grant R01CA074092).