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ESMO calls on EU Member States to prevent lung cancer cases by adopting stricter EU limits on air pollution

19 Jan 2023

The European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) has called on the Member States of the European Union (EU) to adopt stricter limits on air pollution, aiming to prevent lung cancer cases in Europe, following a recently launched proposal to revise the EU’s rules on ambient air quality.

In October 2022, the European Commission proposed to revise and merge the EU Ambient Air Quality Directives. This legislative proposal aims to strengthen EU limits on air pollution by setting intermediate air quality standards for the year 2030, aligning the EU’s rules more closely with the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines by that year. Furthermore, the long-term ambition has been set for the EU to achieve zero pollution for air in 2050.

As part of the revision, the Commission proposed to reduce the annual limit value for Fine Particulate Matter (PM2.5) from the current 25 μg/m³ to 10 μg/m³ by 2030.

Emerging new evidence - first presented by ESMO member, Professor Charles Swanton, at the ESMO 2022 Congress in Paris - demonstrated the molecular mechanism underlying the link between air pollution and lung cancer in non-smokers. Additional studies linked nearly 300,000 lung cancer deaths globally to exposure to ambient (outdoor) air pollution in 2019.1

As such, in light of the cancer burden caused by air pollution, ESMO has written to the Permanent Representations of the EU Member States to call for the adoption of a stricter annual limit value of 5 μg/m³ for PM2.5, as recommended by the WHO.

Such action holds the promise to not only significantly reduce both the incidence - 318,000 cases (11.9% of all cancers) - and mortality - 257,000 deaths (20.4% of all cancer deaths)2 - of lung cancer in the EU, but it will also further cement the EU’s position in the vanguard of global public health, thus encouraging neighboring legislators to adopt similarly progressive measures.

With the legislative proposal now moving to the European Parliament and Council, ESMO stands ready to support the EU institutions with adopting robust EU air quality rules that improve the health and well-being of EU citizens.

For further information, please contact: publicpolicy@esmo.org


  1. Lung Cancer Death Attributable to Long-Term Ambient Particulate Matter (PM2.5) Exposure in East Asian Countries During 1990-2019
  2. European Cancer Information System (ECIS)

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