Exposure to pollution causes 10% of all cancer cases in Europe — European Environment Agency
pollutants in the environment and at the workplaceas well as some natural hazardshave a huge impact on our healthand in some cases lead to cancer, according to the EEA’s online report’‘. With nearly 3 million new patients and 1.3 million deaths each year in the European Union, cancer weighs heavily on our society. The economic costs are also huge, estimated at around €178 billion in 2018 alone.
Most of these environmental and occupational issues cancer risks can be reduced by preventing pollution and changing behavior, according to the EEA study. Reducing exposure to these risks offers an effective and cost-effective way to reduce cancer cases and associated deaths.
For the first time, the EEA has investigated the links between cancer and the environment, examining the latest scientific evidence on air pollution, radon, ultraviolet radiation, second-hand smoke and chemicals. The report estimates that environmental and occupational hazards are responsible for around 10% of cancer cases in Europe.
Virginijus SinkeviciusEuropean Commissioner for the Environment, Fisheries and Oceans, said: “The EEA report highlights that too many cancer cases have an underlying environmental cause. The good news is that we can act now to reduce pollution and prevent deaths. With the Zero Pollution ambition of the European Green Deal, we can deliver cost-effective cancer prevention benefits by reducing exposure to harmful pollutants. What’s better for the environment is also better for us.
Stella Kyriakides, The European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety said: “Every year in Europe, it is estimated that more than a quarter of a million lives are lost due to cancer linked to the environment. Prevention is better than cure, and as part of Europe’s plan to fight cancer, we are strongly committed to reducing contaminants in water, soil and air. Just this week, we presented a landmark proposal as part of our Farm to Fork Strategy to reduce pesticide use by 50% by 2030. Findings from the European Environment Agency show very clear how closely linked the health of our planet and the health of our citizens are. interconnected. We must work with nature, not against it.
Hans Bruyninckx, The EEA’s Executive Director said: “We see the impact of the pollution of our environment on the health and quality of life of European citizens and that is why pollution prevention is so crucial for our well-being. be. Reducing pollution through the EU’s Zero Pollution Action Plan and the Chemical Strategy for Sustainability, as well as the rigorous implementation of other existing EU policies would go a long way in reducing cancer cases and deaths . It would be an effective investment in the well-being of our fellow citizens.
Air pollution (indoor and outdoor) is linked to around 1% of all cancer cases in Europe and causes around 2% of all cancer deaths. For lung cancer alone, this rises to 9% of deaths. Recent studies have detected associations between long-term exposure to particulate matter, a key air pollutant, and leukemia in adults and children.
Radon and ultraviolet radiation also contribute significantly to the cancer burden in Europe. Indoor radon exposure is linked to up to 2% of all cancer cases and one in ten lung cancer cases in Europe. Natural ultraviolet radiation could be responsible for up to 4% of all cancer cases in Europe. In particular, the incidence of melanoma, a serious form of skin cancer, has increased across Europe over the past decades.
Exposure to second-hand smoke may increase the overall risk of all cancers by up to 16% in people who have never smoked. Around 31% of Europeans are exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke at home, at work, during leisure time, in educational establishments or in public places.
Certain chemical products used in European workplaces and released into the environment are carcinogenic and contribute to cancer. Additionally, several of these chemicals are known or suspected to induce cancer in multiple organs, including lead, arsenic, chromium, cadmium, acrylamide, pesticides, bisphenol A, and per-alkylated substances. – and polyfluorinated (PFAS).
All forms of asbestos are well-known carcinogens, associated with mesothelioma and lung cancers, as well as laryngeal and ovarian cancers. While the EU banned asbestos in 2005, it remains present in buildings and infrastructure, leading to exposure for workers involved in renovation and demolition work. In addition, cancers continue to occur many years after exposure, with asbestos accounting for an estimated 55-88% of occupational lung cancers.
EU action against cancer and pollution
The European Cancer Plan recognizes the role of environmental and occupational risks in driving cancer and the potential to save lives through effective prevention strategies. In line with this goal, the Zero Pollution Action Plan aims to reduce air and water pollution, aiming to reduce human exposure to environmental pollution and reduce health impacts, including the environmental and occupational burden of cancer.
The EU has already taken tough action on air pollution, through the National Emission Reduction Commitments (NEC) Directive and the Ambient Air Quality Directives, which set air quality standards for Europe. The European Commission has launched a review of the Ambient Air Quality Directives, aiming, among other things, to align air quality standards more closely with the latest EU Air Quality Guidelines. World Health Organization.
The Chemical Strategy for Sustainability aims to ban the most harmful chemicals in products, including those that cause cancer, and to promote the use of chemicals that are safe and sustainable by design.
With regard to radon, the Basic Safety Standards Directive introduced legally binding requirements for protection against exposure to natural radiation sources. It mandates EU Member States to draw up national radon action plans. Other EU actions include coordinating European efforts to combat passive smoking and raising awareness of the dangers of ultraviolet radiation.