Nearly 10% of cancers in Europe are linked to pollution in various forms, warned the EEA on Tuesday June 28, which stresses that the majority of cases are preventable. “Exposure to air pollution, passive smoking, ultraviolet rays, asbestos, certain chemicals and other pollutants cause more than 10% of cancer cases in Europe,” the agency said in a statement.

However, this figure could drastically decrease if existing policies were rigorously implemented, particularly in the fight against pollution, according to the organization. “All environmental and occupational carcinogenic risks can be reduced,” said EEA expert Gerardo Sanchez ahead of the release of the report, the agency’s first on the link between cancer and the environment.

“Cancers determined by the environment and due to radiation or chemical carcinogens can be reduced to an almost negligible level,” he assured during a press briefing. Recent studies have also detected “a correlation between long-term exposure to particulate matter, a major air pollutant, and leukemia in adults and children”, points out the European organization.

Worrying figures in Europe

Radon, a natural radioactive gas likely to be inhaled, especially in poorly ventilated housing, is considered to be responsible for 2% of cancer cases on the continent.

According to the European agency, ultraviolet rays, of mainly solar but also artificial origin, are responsible for nearly 4% of all cancer cases, in particular melanoma, a serious form of skin cancer which has increased sharply in Europe in recent decades.

Some chemicals used in the workplace and released into the environment are also carcinogenic. Lead, arsenic, chromium, pesticides, bisphenol A and per- and polyfluorinated alkylated substances (PFAS) are among the most dangerous to the health of Europeans, along with asbestos, banned since 2005 in the EU but still present in some buildings. In the EU, 2.7 million people are diagnosed with cancer each year and 1.3 million of them die from it. The continent, which represents barely 10% of the world’s population, has 23% of new cases and 20% of deaths.