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Cancer & environment pollution – how to better protect citizens

In collaboration with the Directorate General For Health and Food Safety

Europeans rightly expect to live in healthy, sustainable environments. Yet, despite extensive legislation on environmental pollution, environmental causes are thought to be behind over a quarter of a million cancer deaths in Europe every year. Environmental pollution has a particularly harmful effect on young children. 
Air pollution is a main driver of mortality, with pollutants from a wide range of sources, including energy, transport, agriculture and industry - contributing to 400,000 premature deaths per year, including from lung cancer, heart disease and strokes. But there are other causes for concern: water and soil pollution, industrial emissions and exposure to harmful chemicals are also impacting the health of EU citizens.
Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, adopted in February 2021, supports Member States and stakeholders in actions to reduce the burden of cancer. The Zero Pollution Action Plan, adopted in May 2021, sets out the ambition for air, water and soil pollution to be reduced to levels no longer considered harmful to health and natural ecosystems by 2050. This session will focus on how such actions can help to reduce the incidence of cancer. We will see how outdoor air pollution can be reduced, hear about the exact relation between air pollution and cancer, and see what citizens can do themselves to reduce their cancer risk related to environmental pollution.


  • John F. Ryan, Director, Directorate General For Health and Food Safety, European Commission
  • Veronica Manfredi, Director, Directorate General For Environment, European Commission
  • Maria Neira, Director, Environment, Climate Change and Health, World Health Organisation (WHO)
  • Martin Adams, Head of Programme ‘Health and Sustainable Resource Use’ , European Environment Agency (EEA)


Session 12.3
Start Date
End Date
Main programme
Room 3