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Panel Says Environmental Causes of Cancer Should Be Priority


Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, and experts at the National Cancer Institute say that at least two-thirds of cases are due to environmental factors. The President’s Cancer Panel believes this to be “grossly underestimated” and eradicating the threats should be a priority for President Obama.

The President’s Cancer Panel was established by the National Cancer Act of 1971 when President Richard Nixon declared a war on cancer. The advisory panel issues an annual report to the President describing the progress and barriers to continued advances in reducing cancer rates and curing existing diseases. This year’s report is entitled “Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now” and contains testimony from more than two dozen experts in cancer, chemicals, and environmental toxins.

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“The Panel was particularly concerned to find that the true burden of environmentally induced cancer has been grossly underestimated,” the authors Dr. LaSalle Leffall Jr of Howard University and Vivian Smith of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center write. "The panel urges you most strongly to use the power of your office to remove the carcinogens and other toxins from our food, water, and air that needlessly increase health care costs, cripple our Nation's productivity, and devastate American lives.”

Environmental factors, according to the National Cancer Institute, include lifestyle factors such as smoking and diet, but the report by the presidential advisory panel focuses on chemical agents and other toxins present in the air and water, including pesticides, pharmaceutical byproducts in the water supply, household chemicals, radiation, and vehicle emissions.

The American Cancer Society disagrees with some of the panel’s findings. "We agree that there are many important issues here … but a reader would come away from this report believing that pollutants cause most cancer," said Dr. Michael Thun, of The American Cancer Society. In fact, he said, most cancers are caused by tobacco, alcohol, overexposure to ultraviolet light, radiation and sexually transmitted infections. The report "presents an unbalanced perspective" of the relative importance of these various factors, he said.

According to the report, there are about 80,000 chemicals that Americans are exposed to each year, but only several hundred have been safety tested. The panel singled out three chemicals as dangerous and an immediate priority: formaldehyde, benzene and radon.

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Almost all homes contain formaldehyde, considered a probable human carcinogen by the Environmental Protection Agency. The chemical is used in plywood, particle board, foam insulation, carpet and draperies, furniture, permanent press fabrics and toiletries. An estimated 2 million Americans are exposed to formaldehyde at work, raising their risk of dying from Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other cancers, according to the report.

Exposure to benzene is also widespread. Exhaust from cars and other vehicles contain benzene, listed as a known human carcinogen by the EPA.
Radon, which forms naturally and can collect in homes, is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, behind smoking, resulting in an estimated 21,000 deaths annually. The report recommends periodically checking the radon levels at home.

Leffal said he hoped the report, if nothing else, would raise awareness that chemicals and other environmental toxins may be causing cancer and that more studies are needed. They encourage physicians who diagnose and treat cancer to collect more information about workplace and living environment to help pinpoint more substances that may be harmful.

The authors also recommend creating a more coordinated and transparent system for enforcing environmental health standards, increasing funding for federal research, and to involve the Environmental Protection Agency for improved guidelines for cancer-causing substances.

About 1.5 million Americans develop cancer each year and 560,000 die from it. About 41% of the population will develop cancer at some point in their lifetimes. To lessen cancer risks, the 240-page report recommends:

* Removing shoes before entering the home to avoid tracking in toxic chemicals such as pesticides.
* Filtering tap water.
* Using stainless steel, glass or BPA-free plastic water bottles.
* Microwaving in ceramic or glass instead of plastic containers.
* Minimizing consumption of food grown with pesticides and meat raised with antibiotics and growth hormone.
* Minimizing consumption of processed, charred or well-done meats, which contain carcinogenic heterocyclic amines and polyaromatic hydrocarbons.
* Reducing radiation from X-rays and other medical sources.

Other tips for reducing cancer risk from the National Cancer Institute include:

*Tobacco: Accounts for about one-third of all cancer deaths in U.S. each year. Don’t smoke or chew tobacco, and avoid smoke-filled rooms.
*Diet/Weight/Physical Inactivity: Obesity appears to be one of the most important modifiable causes of cancer after tobacco. Making diet and exercise changes to lose even just 10% of the excess weight can be beneficial
*Ultraviolet radiation: Radiation from the sun, sunlamps or tanning beds can lead to melanoma and other forms of skin cancer. The incidence of skin cancers is increasing. Take care in the sun with daily use of sunscreen.



11 Environmental Protection Agency employee unions representing over 7000 environmental and public health professionals called for a moratorium on drinking water fluoridation programs across the country, and have asked EPA management to recognize fluoride as posing a serious risk of causing cancer in people. People need to stop groaning when they hear the word fluoride. People Opposed to Fluoridation were probably the first environmentalists who were, are still are, put-down, denigrated and marginalized by people who should know better. Fluoride is not a nutrient nor essential for healthy teeth. Modern science shows that ingesting this chemical does not reduce tooth decay. Fluoride as a drug hardens tooth enamel from topical application, alone. The fluoride chemicals that are added into water supplies are by-products of the phosphate fertilizer industry which are oddly regulated by a private company called NSF International that also represents the industries that produce these chemicals. The EPA out-sourced this responsibility in the 1980's In. February 2008, NSF international reported that they only tested 245 fluoridation chemicals sampled from 2000 to 2006 and found 2% had detectable levels of lead and 43% had detectable levels of arsenic. Since the EPA set the maximum contaminant level goal (MCLG) of fluoride and arsenic at zero, I don't understand why these tainted fluoridation chemicals are allowed into public water supplies. No one entity seems to be in charge. I've questioned EPA, CDC and NSF International. No one has the answer. Other toxins allowed in the fluoridation chemicals are antimony, barium, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, copper, mercury, selenium, and thallium. See: http://www.nsf.org/business/water_distribution/pdf/NSF_Fact_Sheet.pdf People might be surprised to learn that fluoridation chemicals (silicofluorides) have never been safety tested in humans or animals. Over 2,750 professionals (including over 260 dentists) urge the US Congress to stop water fluoridation until Congressional hearings are conducted, citing scientific evidence that fluoridation, long promoted to fight tooth decay, is ineffective and has serious health risks. See statement: http://www.fluorideaction.org/statement.august.2007.html It might be hard to eliminate the other man-made toxins from our environment. Stopping the flow of fluoride takes just a twist of a spigot and the political will to demand this of our legislators
The California Air Resources Board's report published December 15, 2009 states: "Nearly all homes (98%) had formaldehyde concentrations that exceeded guidelines for cancer and chronic irritation..." Summary: http://www.arb.ca.gov/research/apr/past/04-310exec_sum.pdf Report: http://www.arb.ca.gov/research/apr/past/04-310.pdf Researcher's PowerPoint: http://iee-sf.com/resources/pdf/ResidentialVentilation.pdf Unintended Consequences: Formaldehyde Exposure in Green Homes. http://www.aihasynergist-digital.org/aihasynergist/201002?pg=32 Here in CA the Energy Commission sets the code with little input and/or concern about the negative impact their regulations have on the occupants of the homes. Formaldehyde concentration in the 3 decades of the CEC have gone from difficult to detect to 14 ppb, to 29 ppb, to 50 ppb to 100 ppb. At the same time asthma in children under 5 has increased. Children under 5 spend the vast majority of their time in their home, so that is where the problem is. I have been in homes with sick occupants that had elevated formaldehyde. The formaldehyde was controlled using low cost techniques and the health of the occupants improved. Several parents report their children have been able to complete stop using inhalers and asthma medicines without having a single asthma attack. This article fails to mention two of the largest source of residential formaldehyde exposure. 1) Fiberglass wall insulation using a formaldehyde resin. Homes in S. CA had 50 ppb in the Fall with the biggest source being the exterior wall cavities. 2) Laminate flooring using formaldehyde resin. Other common sources not mentioned is MDF in the form of interior doors and molding. Also the article claims that the exposure is greatest when first installed. However, field test indicated that most material has reached is long-term equilbrium by the time material makes it to a job site. Formaldehyde continues to off gas forever, if it didn't the material would fall apart. A tract home built in the early 1960's carpet underlayment is still raising room air to 93 ppb during the summer. Where is the news coverage that the 'green' or 'energy efficiency' movement is actually making us sick? I'd be happy to provide data from experts in the field if contacted.