Children Are Why We Care
About Environmental Safety

Cancer report cover 05.09.10 A few weeks ago, I received an email from Consumer’s Union asking me to visit their headquarters in Yonkers, New York. I would be attending an “event” regarding the organization’s “National School Safety Coalition.”

I was invited because this blog has often discussed children’s safety issues. My favorite topics are dangerous food, chemicals and toys.

It’s particularly ironic that I fly off on Monday, just days after a report called Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk was released by the President’s Cancer Panel.

Writes Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times:

It’s an extraordinary document. It calls on America to rethink the way we confront cancer, including much more rigorous regulation of chemicals. …

In particular, the report warns about exposures to chemicals during pregnancy, when risk of damage seems to be greatest. Noting that 300 contaminants have been detected in umbilical cord blood of newborn babies, the study warns that: “to a disturbing extent, babies are born ‘pre-polluted.’ ”

Because I’ve been swamped by birthdays, Mother’s Day and end of school year activities, I hope to read the report during my flight. But according to news accounts, the report focuses heavily on the 80,000, mostly unregulated, chemicals for sale in the United States.

Here’s an example of what the report sounds like:

Americans’ drinking water comes from groundwater and rain that fills streams, reservoirs, rivers, lakes, and ultimately, the oceans. Chemicals improperly stored and disposed of by industry and individuals alike soak into the soil and eventually leach into groundwater. As clouds and rain, water absorbs chemicals in the air. As a result, the water we drink is steeped in varying mixtures of chemicals and other substances. Some of these contaminants are not harmful to human health in trace or extremely small amounts, while others can cause or contribute to numerous diseases, including cancer. …

An analysis of more than two million drinking water test results acquired from 42 state water offices found 260 contaminants in tap water. Of these, 141 contaminants have no safety standards. Forty (40) of the unregulated contaminants were detected in tap water consumed by at least one million people.

Here’s what the report said about the food industry:

Nearly 1,400 pesticides have been registered (i.e., approved) by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for agricultural and non-agricultural use. Exposure to these chemicals has been linked to brain/central nervous system (CNS), breast, colon, lung, ovarian (female spouses), pancreatic, kidney, testicular, and stomach cancers, as well as Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, multiple myeloma, and soft tissue sarcoma. Pesticide-exposed farmers, pesticide applicators, crop duster pilots, and manufacturers also have been found to have elevated rates of prostate cancer, melanoma, other skin cancers, and cancer of the lip.

BTW, if you think this report is politically motivated, be advised that the only two members on the President’s Cancer Panel are Bush appointees.

So as I said, my visit to Consumer’s Union seems very timely.

9 thoughts on “Children Are Why We Care
About Environmental Safety

  1. MarkS

    The American Cancer Society has a few criticisms of the report you mention.
    I’m not stating that I’m siding with either on the issue as I haven’t fully read the report. However, reading the article about the Cancer Society’s criticism, I see their points that there are certainly bigger fish to fry if we truly want to reduce the incidence of cancer, but I still think that there is a bit more that can be done to research chemicals and their effects on people.
    Anyway, I wanted to share that link and also to wish you a great trip. Nice that the Consumers Union picked you out to attend. Congrats on getting that recognition. I look forward to your report on the trip.

  2. brettdl

    Yeah, I saw the Cancer Society’s criticism earlier, but decided not to go into it. I do agree there are bigger fish to fry when it comes to the the cancer fight.
    But the critic also told the NYT:
    “But Dr. (Michael)Thun said the 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.”

  3. MarkS

    For sure, we should be concerned. Sure their may be bigger fish to fry too, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to fry the smaller fish.
    For example, smoking may be a bigger fish that causes much more cancer than chemicals, but smoking is still a choice for most people, and the warnings are out there.
    But when it comes to the smaller fish, such as chemicals that haven’t been studied enough, and exist in products or the environment such that it affects children (who aren’t actively choosing to be affected by the chemicals), then we should be paying attention and trying to do something about it.


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