Doctors on Friday warned that long-term exposure to particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5) is severely damaging to the human body. The WHO has listed air pollution as the biggest risk to human health.

Ton Yen General Hospital Thoracic Department doctor Hsieh Tsung-hsin (謝宗鑫) said that the hospital recently treated a 51-year-old patient, surnamed Chen (陳).

Chen came to the hospital complaining of a month-long persistent cough in addition to severe migraines, Hsieh said.

The patient was diagnosed with stage 4 lung adenocarcinoma. The cancer cells had also spread to the brain and liver, Hsieh said, adding that the patient is currently under target therapy treatment.

Chen worked in food delivery for almost a decade, Hsieh said.

He added that delivery personnel are exposed to PM2.5, which can easily carry dioxin, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or heavy metal residuals, adding that long-term exposure could cause allergies, asthma attacks, pulmonary emphysema, lung cancer, carcinogenic diseases, liver cancer and other blood-related diseases.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare’s 2018 top ten list of fatal cancers ranks lung cancer first, with 39.8 individuals per 100,000 dying from it or related bronchial and tracheal infections.

As lung cancer has no obvious symptoms, often by the time of discovery it has developed past the mid-stage and sometimes even to terminal stages, Hsieh said.

Survival rates for late-stage lung cancer patients are lower than 15 percent, while early detection increases the rate of survival to 70 or even 90 percent, he added.

Hsieh said that individuals should include low-dose CT scans (LDCTS) during their annual health exams to detect lung cancer as early as possible, especially those with a family history of lung cancer.

He said people suffering from persistent coughing; coughing up blood; tightness in the chest or chest pains; audible wheezing; hoarseness or raspy voice; difficulty in swallowing; feeling extremely tired; sudden weight loss; loss of appetite; or swelling of the lymph nodes should visit a doctor immediately.

He said that food delivery workers, as well as those working outdoors for prolonged periods of time, should consult the Environmental Protection Administration’s PM2.5 monitor Web sites.