A total 99 per cent of Maltese consider environmental protection important to them personally, because of the impact on public health.

This was four per cent higher than the European average, Genon Jensen, executive director of the Brussels based Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) said this morning.

HEAL represents more than 70 organisations in 28 European countries.

Ms Jensen was making the keynote speech ‘Environmental policy as a lever in cancer prevention’ during a conference for World Cancer Day organised by the Action for Breast Cancer Foundation. The conference is focusing on the primary prevention of cancer through changes in environmental policy.

Ms Jensen said the top ranking environmental concern in Malta was air pollution.

She noted that, according to a report by HEAL, two to five per cent of Malta’s health costs could be saved with a proper environmental policy that reduced exposure to endocrine disruptors.

Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that may interfere with the body’s endocrine system and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects in both humans and wildlife.

Ms Jensen praised the work of the late healthcare campaigner and nurse Helen Muscat who died in October 2013.

Ms Muscat was a founding member of the Hospice Movement, the Breast Care Support Group and the Action for Breast Cancer Foundation.

In the past 18 months, the World Health Organisation’s cancer agency officially recognised air pollution as a contributor to lung cancer. In response to growing evidence, the American Public Health Association, the largest public health organisation in the world, adopted a ground-breaking resolution on the elevated risk of breast cancer faced by women in certain occupations and from everyday environmental exposures.

Hormonal cancers, such as those of the breast, prostate and testes, were increasingly linked to chemical exposures. The incidence of all three rose rapidly in recent decades in Europe.

Experts were in agreement that the upward trends could not derive entirely either from genetics or an aging population or better screening. Environmental exposures were among the likely causes, especially exposure to certain harmful “hormone disrupting” chemicals found in everyday products, such as food and beverage containers and cosmetics.

The conference was opened by President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca who said environmental policies could play an effective role in preventing cancer.

Every person, she said, had right to treatment with dignity.
President Coleiro Preca also spoke on the National Cancer Platform, which she launched yesterday and which was bringing NGOs together in the fight against cancer. The initiative was praised by all speakers during the conference

In a video message, EU Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella said more than 27,000 comments and suggestions were received in the recent EU public consultation on endocrine disrupting chemicals.

"I will continue to work with the European Commissioner for Health to make sure these this input is taken into account in the preparation of the relative legislation."

The Commission's Clean Air Policy Package, which was now on the table of the co-legislators, was an integrated and comprehensive way aimed to reduce these harmful impacts by at least 50 per cent by 2030," he said.

Other speakers were Health Parliamentary Secretary Chris Fearne, Environment Minister Leo Brincat (video message), health shadow minister Claudette Buttigieg and Opposition environment spokesman Ryan Callus.