Environmentally-Induced Cancer Underestimated

The President's Cancer Panel recently published a report stating that the "true burden of environmentally induced cancer has been grossly underestimated."  Beginning on page xix (page 27 of the 240-page PDF file), you can find recommendations for individuals, including (rewording by me):

  • Minimize children's exposure to toxics
  • Moms and Dads should avoid exposure to endocrine-disruption chemicals and carcinogens pre-conception through pregnancy and early life, when risk of damage is greatest
  • Remove your shoes before entering your home
  • Filter your tap water
  • Store water in steel, glass or BPA/phthalate-free containers
  • Microwave foods and beverages in ceramic and glass
  • Choose foods grown without pesticides, chemical fertilizers, antibiotics, and growth hormones
  • Avoid consumption of processed, charred and well-done meats
  • Make informed decisions about products you buy (consult Household Products Database)
  • Don't use pesticides or fertilizers in your landscaping
  • Turn of lights and electrical devices when not in use to save electricity
  • Bike, walk and use public transportation when possible
  • Quit smoking and avoid second-hand smoke
  • Wear a headset when using a cell phone and keep calls brief
  • Check home radon levels
  • Carefully consider using medical procedures that involve radiation exposure
  • Avoid overexposure to UV through clothing, sunscreen, avoiding intense sunlight
  • Communicate your desire for a reduction in environmental toxics to policymakers, manufacturers and trade organizations.  Use your dollar to vote:  buy less-toxic products!

Reaction to the report was mixed, applauded by some cancer advocacy groups and criticized by others, such as the American Cancer Society.  Still "the [American] cancer society shared the panel’s concerns about people’s exposure to so many chemicals, the lack of information about chemicals, the vulnerability of children and the radiation risks from medical imaging tests."  That's a quote from the NY Times article titled "U.S. Panel Criticized as Overstating Cancer Risks."  The NY Times article notes the report's criticism of the United State's reactionary regulatory approach of environmental toxins (emphasis mine):

Nearly 80,000 chemicals are in use in the United States, and yet only a few hundred have been tested for safety, the report notes. It criticizes the nation’s regulatory approach, calling it reactionary rather than precautionary, which means that the government waits for proof of harm before taking action, instead of taking preventive steps when there is uncertainty about a chemical. Regulation is ineffective, the panel says, in part because of inadequate staffing and financing, overly complex rules, weak laws, uneven enforcement and undue industry influence. 

I agree with the panel!  Lame regulatory approach.  Here is an excerpt from the report's cover letter to the President:

The Panel was particularly concerned to find that the true burden of environmentally induced cancer has been grossly underestimated. With nearly 80,000 chemicals on the market in the United States, many of which are used by millions of Americans in their daily lives and are un- or understudied and largely unregulated, exposure to potential environmental carcinogens is widespread. One such ubiquitous chemical, bisphenol A (BPA), is still found in many consumer products and remains unregulated in the United States, despite the growing link between BPA and several diseases, including various cancers.

While BPA has received considerable media coverage, the public remains unaware of many common environmental carcinogens such as naturally occurring radon and manufacturing and combustion by-products such as formaldehyde and benzene. Most also are unaware that children are far more vulnerable to environmental toxins and radiation than adults. Efforts to inform the public of such harmful exposures and how to prevent them must be increased. All levels of government, from federal to local, must work to protect every American from needless disease through rigorous regulation of environmental pollutants.

Find the full report here.

What step will you take to limit your family's exposure to environmental toxins?  


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