Presidential Panel Warns: Chemicals in the Environment Put You at High Risk for Cancer

Meanwhile, American Cancer Society Sticks with Tried and True Advice

A report in May 2010 from the President’s Can­cer Pan­el builds a strong link between expo­sure to envi­ron­men­tal con­t­a­m­i­nants and the risk of can­cer.

The pan­el not­ed that “the true bur­den of envi­ron­men­tal­ly induced can­cer has been gross­ly under­es­ti­mat­ed.”

There are near­ly 80,000 chem­i­cals cur­rent­ly on the mar­ket in the Unit­ed States, the report points out.  And many of them have not been stud­ied, have been under­stud­ied, and are large­ly unreg­u­lat­ed.

The increas­ing num­ber of known or sus­pect­ed envi­ron­men­tal car­cino­gens com­pels us to action, even though we may cur­rent­ly lack irrefutable proof of harm,” said pan­el chair LaSalle D. Lef­fall, Jr., MD, pro­fes­sor of surgery at Howard Uni­ver­si­ty Col­lege of Med­i­cine in Wash­ing­ton, DC.

The pan­el advis­es Pres­i­dent Oba­ma “to use the pow­er of your office to remove the car­cino­gens and oth­er tox­ins from our food, water, and air that need­less­ly increase health­care costs, crip­ple our nation’s pro­duc­tiv­i­ty, and dev­as­tate Amer­i­can lives.”

In con­trast, the Amer­i­can Can­cer Soci­ety wants to dial down the alarm lev­el for envi­ron­men­tal expo­sure.

The con­clu­sion [of the president’s pan­el] that the true bur­den of envi­ron­men­tal­ly induced can­cer has been gross­ly under­es­ti­mat­ed  — does not rep­re­sent sci­en­tif­ic con­sen­sus. Rather, it reflects one side of a sci­en­tif­ic debate that has con­tin­ued for almost 30 years.”

That’s a quote from Michael J. Thun, MD, vice pres­i­dent emer­i­tus of the Amer­i­can Can­cer Soci­ety.

He feels that the report of the President’s Can­cer Pan­el is unbal­anced because it dis­miss­es can­cer pre­ven­tion efforts aimed at the major pre­vi­ous­ly-known caus­es of can­cer, which include tobac­co use, obe­si­ty, alco­hol, infec­tions, hor­mones, and sun­light.

Still, there are many areas of agree­ment between the two orga­ni­za­tions.  The Amer­i­can Can­cer Soci­ety shares a con­cern for the accu­mu­la­tion of syn­thet­ic chem­i­cals in the food chain, the com­bi­na­tion effects of mul­ti­ple, inad­e­quate­ly-test­ed chem­i­cals, and the poten­tial­ly greater sus­cep­ti­bil­i­ty of chil­dren.

Our reg­u­la­to­ry approach in the US is too pas­sive.

The pan­el writes that the “pre­vail­ing reg­u­la­to­ry approach in the Unit­ed States is reac­tionary rather than pre­cau­tion­ary,” mean­ing that human harm must be proven first before action is tak­en to remove an envi­ron­men­tal tox­in. In oth­er words, a new chem­i­cal being intro­duced into the envi­ron­ment is pre­sumed inno­cent until proven guilty.

That’s crazy.  Proof of harm might only come after many years of tox­ic expo­sure to mil­lions of peo­ple.

This approach should be reversed, and replaced with a pre­cau­tion­ary pre­ven­tion-ori­ent­ed strat­e­gy.  The respon­si­bil­i­ty should be on the man­u­fac­tur­er to ensure that prod­ucts are safe.

Difficulty in learning what causes cancer

Research on envi­ron­men­tal caus­es of can­cer has been lim­it­ed.

And it’s tricky.   In many cas­es, can­cer has a long laten­cy peri­od.  It can take years to show up.  Peo­ple may not remem­ber what they might have been exposed 10 or 20 years before.  What makes mat­ters more com­pli­cat­ed is that we’re being exposed to many dif­fer­ent chem­i­cals through­out our lives.

By con­trast, it’s a lot eas­i­er to study the effect of smok­ing on can­cer.

Pan­el rec­om­mends steps for indi­vid­u­als to pro­tect them­selves

The pan­el rec­om­mends con­crete actions that gov­ern­ment, indus­try, and indi­vid­u­als can take to reduce can­cer risk.

But don’t wait for the gov­ern­ment to take action.  Or for pol­lut­ing indus­tries to vol­un­tar­i­ly curb their emis­sions.  Take charge of your own health.

The panel’s rec­om­men­da­tions for indi­vid­u­als include

  • Fil­ter your tap water.
  • Eat organ­ic foods.
  • Elim­i­nate unnec­es­sary X-rays and CAT scans.

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About Aaron Bynen

Aaron is a health conscious individual living in the Pacific Northwest.

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