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Today the European Commission launched the Beating Cancer Plan, marking the beginning of a new era in cancer prevention [1]. The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) has welcomed the ambitious plan as a major step forward to prevent cancer by preventing pollution.

“Chronic exposure to cancer-causing pollutants in our environment, like endocrine disruptors and air pollution, poses serious health risks. With cancer cases estimated to increase by almost 25% by 2035, it is encouraging to see the Beating Cancer Plan set out plans to reduce environmental pollution,” explains Genon Jensen, Executive Director at HEAL.

“Now we need to move forward on cancer prevention policies such as fully aligning the EU air quality standards with the WHO guidelines and implementing the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability.”

In the run-up to the launch of the Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, HEAL listed four demands to be included for it to truly address environmental health pollution [2]. Checking the plan against those demands shows some positive aspects. The European Commission commits to: 

  • Reduce environmental pollution by interacting closely with the Green Deal and the Zero Pollution Strategy, in order to step up actions on contaminants in surface, ground and drinking water, soil and air. 
  • Align the EU’s air quality standards more closely with the WHO guidelines and promote sustainable and smart mobility.
  • Improve worker’s protection and reduce their exposure to carcinogens at the workplace by updating directives and commitments to help reduce work-related cancer.
  • Address unhealthy diets, obesity and physical inactivity by further reducing carcinogenic contaminants in food.

The EU Cancer Plan also makes a nod to the EU Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability, stating that implementing the actions under the latter will make it possible to deal with hazardous chemicals more rapidly and effectively reduce the exposure of consumers and professionals to carcinogenic substances, or to other hazardous chemicals that interfere with our endocrine and immune systems.

In a Q&A also published today, the EU Commission specifies the Cancer Plan will be examined by the Member States at a Health Ministers’ meeting scheduled during the Portuguese Presidency of the EU [3]. 

Today, cancer causes 1 in 4 deaths in the European Union and continues to be the first cause of death at work in the EU. Frequent exposure to some environmental factors, such as air pollution, pesticides and endocrine disrupting chemicals, significantly increases our cancer risk [4]. 

Contact:

Ivonne Leenen, Communications Officer at the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), ivonne@env-health.org

Notes to editor:

  1. https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_21_342 
  2. In the run-up to the launch of the Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, HEAL listed four demands to be included for it to truly address environmental health pollution https://www.env-health.org/4-demands-for-an-ambitious-europes-beating-cancer-plan/
  3. EU Commission Q&A: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/qanda_21_344. Annex to the EU Beating Cancer Plan with list of actions: https://www.google.com/url?q=https://ec.europa.eu/health/sites/health/files/non_communicable_diseases/docs/eu_cancer-plan_annex_en.pdf&sa=D&source=editors&ust=1612365373660000&usg=AOvVaw3_NJuaJDYb4Mg9lXEeyh53
  4. Please see the European Cancer Leagues’ position paper (published in 2020) https://www.europeancancerleagues.org/wp-content/uploads/ECL-Vision-EU-Beating-Cancer-Plan_Final.pdf 

    or visit HEAL’s and ECL’s infographic illustrating how Europe can prevent cancer by tackling environmental pollutants https://www.env-health.org/heal-and-european-cancer-leagues-launch-infographic-illustrating-how-europe-can-prevent-cancer-by-tackling-environmental-pollutants/