Acción Estratégica Medea

Environment - Pollution sources and cancer


The geographical patterns presented by certain pathologies suggest that environmental factors could play an important role in their aetiology. The toxic substances constantly emitted to the environment by many types of industrial activity include a long list of products, practically unstudied due to lack of information. The evidence regarding health risks associated with living near such contaminating industries is limited, the problems most studied being cancer and congenital malformations.

In January 2000 the European Council authorised a European level inventory of emitters of pollution, the EPER (European Pollutant Emission Register). The industrial activities registered belong to 6 broad categories: 1) combustion installations; 2) production and transformation of metals; 3) mineral industries; 4) chemical industries; 5) waste management; and 6) other activities. The EPER has been substituted in 2009 by the new E-PRTR (European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register). The E-PRTR requires industrial complexes to communicate information about 115 pollutants (in Spain, Annex II of Royal Decree 508/2007). The previous MEDEA project demonstrated the viability of studies of this type, and made various contributions, already published.

The present project intends to make three novel contributions: 1) to quantify the influence of specific airborne pollutant emissions on the population’s health in the setting where they occur, 2) to improve the models for characterising risk for the population living near sources of industrial pollution with the aim of reducing errors in the classification of possible exposures; and 3) to determine the possibilities for studying the relationship between sources of industrial pollution and urban cancer incidence.


  • To study the effect of proximity to one or more polluting industries on cancer mortality in Spanish towns.
  • To reduce problems of misclassification of exposure by including, in the case of airborne emissions, the relative situation of population nuclei with respect to pollution point sources. (anisotropic phenomena).
  • To explore the utility of the application of these techniques to determine urban cancer incidence.


Ecological study of mortality/cancer incidence in small areas and the relationships with emissions from industrial pollution sources. Thirty-three cancer sites will be studied. Data on industrial pollution will come from the E-PRTR. The degree of focussed spatial aggregation of mortality/incidence in relation to one or several industrial pollution sources will be studied using distance from and relative position of the source as a substitution measure of the exposure.


García-Pérez J, Pollán M, Boldo E, Pérez-Gómez B, Aragonés N, Lope V, Ramis R, Vidal E, López-Abente G. Mortality due to lung, laryngeal and bladder cancer in towns lying in the vicinity of combustion installations. J Sci Tot Environ. 2009;407:2593-2602.