Feed on

Yesterday the President’s Cancer Panel — I can’t believe I didn’t know it existed — released its most recent annual report, Reducing Environmental Risk: What We Can Do Now. Download it. It’s worth a read.

The report explains that, in 2009, more than 1.5 American men, women and children were diagnosed with cancer, and 562,000 died. The experts on the panel seem to think that environmental risk factors are “grossly underestimated.” Here’s an excerpt from the study:

“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.” The report then went on to mention bisphenol A (BPA) specifically.

Babies and kids, according to the report, are extremely sensitive to environmental toxins. One of the biggest sources: agriculture. “The entire U.S. population is exposed on a daily basis to numerous agricultural chemicals, some of which also are used in residential and commercial landscaping. Many of these chemicals have known or suspected carcinogenic or endocrine-disrupting properties. Pesticides (insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides) approved for use by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) contain nearly 900 active ingredients, many of which are toxic.” Many of the pesticides have fillers and inert ingredients, too none of which are required to be tested as to how they might contribute to people getting chronic diseases or long-term illnesses such as cancer. HOW can that be true? How can it be allowed? But it is true, and it is allowed. The report makes that very clear.

The report’s main message is that we need a nation-wide plan to eliminate or reduce the environmental risks out there. In the meantime parents MUST take care of their kids, especially. One of the subheads in the report was pretty clear on this point: “Children Are at Special Risk for Cancer Due to Environmental Contaminants and Should Be Protected.”

It even calls for pregnant women to be more careful, saying babies today are born “pre-polluted” since so many contaminants can cross the placenta. It suggests we find green alternatives to many of the chemicals in use. Until that happens we can take steps to protect ourselves by buying organic — eliminating many of those pesticides criticized in the report. We can also avoid household chemicals by buying green, non-toxic cleaning supplies, and stop buying air fresheners. Clothing and furniture can be toxic, too if it is treated with flame retardant chemicals, so read your labels. Another huge, necessary change: saying no to plastic food storage and packaging. When the government repeatedly says something, in this case BPA, is bad, it’s probably a good idea to avoid it at all costs. Finally, try to keep kids away from chemically-treated lawns and gardens to reduce the number of fertilizers and herbicides they are exposed to. (And yes, it’s absolutely worth going up and talking to your school district about what they use on their laws, in the schools and on the playground.)

I’m impressed that the government is finally telling the public the truth about the chemicals in our lives. Now that it’s in our faces and obvious it’s up to us to do something with this information. It’s up to us to take care of ourselves and our kids.

Do you have a family member with cancer? Do you think there is an environmental link between that disease and the illness? What, if anything, are you going to do with this information?

4 Responses to “President’s Cancer Panel: The Environment Matters”

  1. Alexandra says:

    How glad am I to see you writing on this subject! Wow, thanks. I totally believe there’s a link between toxic chemicals in the environment and cancer. I was shocked to read in the NYT that the American Cancer Society has downplayed this report. Good grief! Have they accepted money from lobbyists, too? This is downright scary.

    Here on Cape Cod, we are trying to stop the utility company from spraying up to five herbicides under the power lines. I went and researched history of our town and discovered in the annual report real concern about pesticides and information on how chemicals cause 75% of all cancer or some such figure. The Chemical industry has been incredibly successful at making us forget such details.

    I think it is up to bloggers to spread the word. The EPA is trying to regulate toxic chemicals that have never received review. We need to support their effort. You cannot count on the media. I discovered that fact regarding our utility company.

    Anyway, please write about this again. It is so important for us all, and especially for the children. Thanks!

  2. Alexandra says:

    PS. annual report from 1976

  3. This is so scary, but it’s about time it came out to the public. It’s going to be challenging for our country to make the shift, but it’s clearly necessary. Good friends of ours are raising their kids green as can be, but in a simple way. Not buying special products, etc., but keeping things simple – homemade baby food, glass containers, food grown themselves, etc. – for environmental and economic reasons. Thanks for writing about this. What steps are you taking personally?

  4. MarthaandMe says:

    Wow! I didn’t know there was a such a panel and I am thrilled to finally hear this from the government. This is really a step in the right direction!

Leave a Reply