The average person takes more than 20,000 breaths each day.

OK, now take a breath.

This week, your top environmental news story is about pollutants in the air you breathe.

On Thursday, a World Health Organization agency said that air pollution causes lung cancer. But there’s more. The story quotes a researcher, Kurt Straif, who says that air pollution leap-frogged second-hand cigarette and cigar smoke to become “the most important environmental carcinogen.”

Being labelled as a carcinogen adds air pollution to a list of pretty toxic stuff, including asbestos, tobacco and ultraviolet radiation.

This is a first, people. For the first time, this WHO agency has scientific evidence that what you inhale is a cocktail of toxic substances that you didn’t order and that can lead to cancer.

Researchers also said that the risks to individuals is low, but pushed governments to do more to improve air quality.

The most polluted cities were found in China and India. But Canada’s not off the hook. One of our air pollution hotspots is Chemical Valley in Sarnia, Ont. In 2011, the World Health Organization said Sarnia had some of the most polluted air in Canada (Click here to read about our work in Chemical Valley).

Air quality is an important issue when it comes to your health. If the air has too many pollutants and we’re inhaling what’s in the air more than 20,000 times every day … well, I think you can make the connection.

At Ecojustice, we want every Canadian to live a long and productive life without worrying whether the air they breathe is harming them. And we use the law to get that done.