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Cancer and the Environment: The President's Cancer Panel

Posted by Safer States on May 11, 2010

The President's Cancer Panel released a report on Cancer and the Environment last week.

Last week, the President's Cancer Panel -- a panel of doctors originally appointed by President Bush -- released a damning report underlining the acute need for stronger toxics laws.

The report, which was submitted to President Obama before it was released to the public on May 6, asks the President "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."

In addition to recommendations such as avoiding pesticides in food and filtering water, the report also advises that Americans avoid BPA and phthalates in order to decrease cancer risk.

This is in line with what science is telling us: BPA harms vulnerable populations like babies, children, and pregnant women by increasing risk for cancer and endocrine disruption. And those with high exposure to phthalates are at greater risk for cancer, fetal development issues, and problems with reproductive development.

In January, a report was released by Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families which underlined the economic reasons for toxics reform: if exposure to toxic chemicals is reduced, Americans will be healthier and health care costs will be lower.

The 240-page report by the President's Cancer Panel acknowledges the hard work by the states for toxics reform.

"Some states have taken action to fill the regulatory void left by weak Federal regulation of environmental chemicals and other contaminants. California has long been a leader in this regard, but other states likewise are stepping up occupational and environmental protection efforts ... In 2008, both Maine and Washington passed legislation to reduce children’s exposure to toxic chemicals. The Washington Children’s Safe Products Act focuses specifically on eliminating lead, cadmium, and hormone-disrupting phthalates in children’s toys."

Once again, we ask that citizens continue to push for strong state legislation while at the same time supporting legislators who will pass toxics legislations on the federal level. The passage of a solid Safe Chemicals Act by the US Congress will protect vulnerable populations across the country.

Reacting to the report by the President's Cancer Panel, Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times called the document "extraordinary" and said that the report is remarkable in its source: "not from the fringe but from the mission control of mainstream scientific and medical thinking, the President's Cancer Panel."

“Chemicals strike me as a bit like tobacco in the 1960’s: the evidence of danger was growing but not 100 percent conclusive, and regulators were painfully slow to act. What is changing now is that the mainstream medical establishment is embracing the concern that the fringe food and environmental movement has always had. One milestone was the report of the Endocrine Society (the leading group of endocrinologists) last year warning about chemicals that fool the body’s hormonal systems. And another milestone is the new President’s Cancer Panel report. I used to be a skeptic, but I’ve become a convert.”
- Nicholas Kristof, NY Times

Further Reading:
New alarm bells about chemicals and cancer. New York Times, 05/05/10
President's Cancer Panel. Environmental Health News, 05/06/10
President's panel releases groundbreaking report linking toxic chemicals to cancer. Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, 05/06/10.
President's Cancer Panel calls for fundamental shift in chemicals policy. Breast Cancer Fund, 05/06/10.
Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What we can do now (PDF). President's Cancer Panel, 05/06/10.

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