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Despite progress in many areas, environmental hazards continue to affect public health in the EU. Air pollution, noise, heavy metal emissions, heatwaves and cold spells continue to cause health issues and fatalities across Europe each year. Europe has put in place a wide range of policies and measures to reduce such health impacts.
Chemicals in humans and their health risks
For many chemicals, the health impacts of long-term exposure are unknown. It is difficult to accurately assess the risks that chemicals pose to human health because of the complex mixture of chemicals we are exposed to in our daily lives through the environment, products, food and drinking water.
Human biomonitoring allows researchers to measure our exposure to chemicals by measuring their metabolites, which are the markers of subsequent health effects in body fluids or tissues. Information on human exposure can then be linked to other health data to better understand the links between chemicals and human health.
The EEA is a lead partner in the the Partnership for the Assessment of Risks in Chemicals (PARC), which includes policymakers, stakeholders, and scientists throughout the EU. Together, we are monitoring EU citizens’ exposure to chemicals and possible health effects.
Air pollution, climate change, noise, green spaces... Do you know how they impact your health?
Can our environment give us cancer?
Cancer affects the lives of many Europeans. Environmental and occupational exposure to pollutants and others risks contributes significantly to the high burden of cancer in Europe. However, all environmental and occupational cancer risk factors are largely preventable. Our report provides a brief overview of the evidence on the environmental and occupational determinants of cancer in Europe and of EU policy responses.
- Air pollution is linked to around 1% of all cancer cases in Europe and causes around 2% of all cancer deaths. Air pollutants are also linked to asthma, heart disease and stroke.
- Radon forms naturally in rocks, soil and groundwater and contributes significantly to the increase of cancer cases in Europe. Indoor radon exposure is linked to up to 2% of all cancer cases and one in ten lung cancer cases in Europe.
- Exposure to second-hand smoke may increase the overall risk for all cancers by up to 16% in people who have never been smokers.
- Forever chemicals used in European workplaces and released into the environment are carcinogenic and contribute to cancer cases. These chemicals include lead, arsenic, chromium, cadmium, acrylamide, pesticides, Bisphenol A and per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS).
- All forms of asbestos are well-known carcinogens. While the EU banned asbestos in 2005, it remains present in buildings and infrastructure, exposing workers involved in renovation and demolition work.
What if we reduce pollution...
By reducing pollution, the EU’s zero pollution action plan aims not only to protect society’s vulnerable groups over the long term, but also to improve quality of life for all.
Our zero pollution monitoring assessment includes a chapter, examining available knowledge and trends in pollution and associated impacts on health. Sub-sections provide more detailed analysis of air pollution, noise pollution, water pollution, chemical pollution and soil pollution impacts on health. A collection of ‘Signals’ highlight emerging issues and other available knowledge on pollution and health.
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Europeans, exposed to bisphenol A above health safety levels
Population exposure to the synthetic chemical Bisphenol A (BPA), which is used in everything from plastic and metal food containers to reusable water bottles and drinking water pipes in Europe is well above acceptable health safety levels, according to updated research data. This poses a potential health risk to millions of people.
Data collected from an EU human biomonitoring study found that up to 100% of the people taking part from 11 EU countries were likely exposed to the chemical above safe health thresholds.