What types of cancer are likely to be found

Causes, prevention, emergence and prognoses

Pollutants in our environment as a cancer risk

It is known that certain pollutants in our environment can promote the development of cancer. The best known is surely asbestos. Read about when and where we are exposed to carcinogenic substances, how great the risk really is and how you can protect yourself.

The carcinogenic effect of asbestos is now clearly established. That is why the building material has not been used for over 20 years and has been consistently removed from old buildings. In addition to asbestos, there are other pollutants that are suspected of promoting the development of cancer.

Air pollution as a cancer risk?

The most important carcinogenic air pollutants include exhaust gases from road traffic and industry. The resulting fine dust has been shown to be a cause of lung cancer. In Germany, it has been possible to significantly reduce particulate matter pollution through strict limit values ​​since the 1990s, but exceeding the limit values ​​is still the rule.

Diesel exhaust emissions from road traffic can also be carcinogenic. Studies show that people who are often exposed to diesel exhaust fumes over a long period of time have a higher risk of lung, bladder and breast cancer. You can look up current measurement data of the air at the Federal Environment Agency.

Pollutants in our clothes

Whether dyes, fertilizers, pesticides or nanoparticles: Many pollutants that are present in clothing or are used in production are suspected of having a negative impact on our health. Unfortunately, there is no licensing or registration requirement for textiles, which is why there is a lack of comprehensive knowledge of possible risks.

However, so-called azo dyes are known to be carcinogenic, which is why clothing treated with them has been banned across the EU. You should be careful with imported textiles from non-EU countries that occasionally still contain these dyes. Formaldehyde was detected in non-iron clothing, which is suspected of being carcinogenic in high concentrations.

You can prevent exposure to clothing by washing new clothes before wearing them and avoiding non-iron clothes. A well-known seal of approval is Oeko-Tex Standard 100 and 1000. The 100 seal only looks at the end product, with the 1000 seal the production facility and production are also checked according to environmentally friendly criteria.

Made in China: Children's toys keep making headlines

The media report at regular intervals that toxic substances have been found in children's toys. Since children come into close physical contact with toys, there is great concern that they could ingest carcinogenic substances. Nickel, lead, cadmium, formaldehyde, boric acid and plasticizers are critical substances that can be found in toys. According to the EU Toy Directive, they may only be contained in toys in harmless quantities.

In particular, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are used in plasticizers in children's toys, have repeatedly been found in high concentrations in tests. In the EU chemicals regulation REACH, among other things, the handling of PAH is regulated. In it, "the delivery of carcinogenic, mutagenic or reproductive-endangering substances (CMR substances) to the end user is generally prohibited." 1 This also includes eight PAHs that are already classified as CMR substances.1 PAHs are absorbed through the skin and are suspected of being both carcinogenic and mutagenic.

In order to protect yourself and your own child from toys that contain harmful substances, it is advisable to pay attention to the smell of the toy and the PVC ingredient, which can contain plasticizers, when buying them. Well-known toy seals of approval for harmless toys, such as the TÜV proof mark, the GS mark and the Spiel gut mark, are helpful.

Do pesticides containing glyphosate pose a health risk?

Again and again in the media there is talk of the plant protection product glyphosate and its possible health risks. According to the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, over 1,000 studies on the health effects of glyphosate were evaluated as part of the risk assessment.2 Independent scientists from Germany and all EU member states agree that the active ingredient glyphosate is harmless to health if it is used “as intended and appropriately”.2

Who controls pollution levels?

Pollutant emissions and environmental pollution, but also substances that are hazardous to health in consumer goods, are regulated by law at the German and European level and are therefore regularly checked. This keeps the health burden as low as possible and new harmful influences are discovered and restricted more quickly.

Additional information

If you still need information or have questions, you can inquire in various ways:

Additional information on the topic of cancer risk due to environmental influences and a list of other contacts can be found at the Cancer Information Service and the German Cancer Society.

  1. Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons Harmful to the Environment! Toxic! Unavoidable? updated version 2016, Federal Environment Agency (publisher).
  2. https://www.bmel.de/DE/Landwirtschaft/Pflanzenbau/Pflanzenschutz/_Texte/GlyphosatFAQ.html#doc5305986bodyText14 [Accessed on: 13.11.2019]
Print chapter