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How effective is the European legislation regarding cancer-related chemical agents?
  1. Cathy Rigolle1,
  2. Ward Rommel1,
  3. Hans Neefs2,
  4. Hedwig Verhaegen3
  1. 1Knowledge and Policy Department, Flemish Cancer League, Ghent, Belgium
  2. 2Knowledge and Policy Department, Flemish Cancer League, Antwerp, Belgium
  3. 3Knowledge and Policy Department, Flemish Cancer League, Brussels, Belgium
  1. Correspondence to Cathy Rigolle, Knowledge and Policy Department, Flemish Cancer League, Gordunakaai 16A, Ghent 9000, Belgium; cathy.rigolle{at}

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Environmental pollution has been underestimated as a cause of cancer for a long time. However, scientific evidence that pollution contributes to the development of cancer is rising. There is still quite some scientific uncertainty about the exact impact of the environment on the development of cancer, but there are more and more scientific insights, which urge us to be more cautious about a lot of chemicals we are using at the moment.1–3 Therefore, prevention of environmental exposure that causes or helps to cause cancer should be incorporated in cancer policies and cancer control programmes.

At the moment, cancer-related chemical agents are present everywhere in our living environment.4 ,5 ‘Cancer-related agents’ refers not only to the chemicals officially classified as carcinogens6 ,7 but also to substances for which there are strong indications that they (help to) cause cancer, like endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). Needless to say, humans should be exposed to the minimum of and preferably not at all to these agents. This can be achieved, in the first place, by means of efficient legislation and policies.

In recent years, quite a lot of new legislation has come into force at the European level. But how effective is it? In a report published in May 2012 that evaluates the impact of European and national/regional policies regarding cancer-related chemical agents in Belgium/Flanders,8 ,9 we tried to answer that question for the European Union (EU) regulation for the so-called industrial chemicals - the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH)10—and for the legislation and policies concerning pesticides.

REACH is in effect since 1 June 2007. For pesticides, two new regulations were adopted: the 2009 Pesticides Regulation (agricultural)11 and the 2012 Biocides Regulation (non-agricultural pesticides)12. Furthermore, the 2009 Directive for the …

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  • Contributors CR did the research for the report on which this commentary is based. She wrote the first draft of the commentary. The coauthors provided critical remarks and additions.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.