While the effects of exposure to multiple products on the development of cancer are still controversial, the French Agency for the safety of the environment and labor advocates better taken into account as a whole, and not more stick to the toxicities of chemicals isolated. Pesticides, plastics, cosmetics, food additives and other pollutants are regularly accused of being partly responsible for the astonishing growth of some cancers experienced by developed countries over the past twenty years. In Europe, where the most spectacular is that of breast cancer. According to WHO, the incidence (rate of onset of disease) in 1970 was 30 to 50 per hundred thousand inhabitants, by country. In 2003 it was 50 to 170.
But what evidence did they? In France, the least we can say is that there is no agreement on the issue. In 2007, the Academy of Medicine concluded that the proportion of cancer due to pollution of the air, water or food was 0.5%, and it could be 0.85% taking into account air pollution. For its part, a national environmental health (NHEP), for the period 2004-2008, indicated that “7 to 20%” of cancers were attributable to environmental causes.
Taking into account the overall exposure
Today, the French Agency for the safety of the environment and labor (Afsset) revisits this issue after the release last October, a report from Inserm after a study commissioned in 2005 and established a list of factors to the carcinogenic effect known or discussed. The opinion, released this week, has put forward any figures, but recommends to take into account the logic of the precautionary principle.
Afsset advised not to consider the substances isolated but the entire exhibition. “There is a huge mass of cancer that can not explain today,” summed Guespereau Martin, Director General of the Agency, in comments reported by AFP. The argument, classical, is that many cancers are linked not to a single product (tobacco to lung cancer for example) but a set of factors. Afsset suggests considering also the role of carcinogenic factors “discussed” and all exhibits which may be subject a person. We should not separate, says the Agency, exposure during professional activities and those due to environmental or housing, which may be cumulative.
Effects of multiple exposures and interactions between different factors, two parameters are very difficult to assess, which explains why it takes little account today. But Afsset recommends making an effort in this sense, epidemiology first, but also by crossing other disciplines, such as “toxicology, the study shows and social sciences.