Expert panel: Carcinogenic chemicals in environment threaten Americans

May 7, 2010 by Lin Edwards, Medical Xpress report
The hazard symbol for carcinogenic chemicals in the Globally Harmonized System. Image via Wikipedia.

(PhysOrg.com) -- An expert panel in the U.S. has warned President Obama Americans face "grievous harm" from a bombardment of largely unregulated and often carcinogenic chemicals in their food, air and water, both at work and in the home, and has urged the president to adopt a new national strategy to focus on the threat.

The panel, known as the “President's Panel,” claims the often-quoted figure of only five percent of cancers being caused by and , and the rest caused by factors such as diet and smoking, is grossly underestimated. The panel did not offer a new estimate, however.

The panel’s report, released on May 6, said there was a “growing body of evidence” that linked exposure to chemicals, and pollutants in the environment to cancer, with children being especially at risk because they are smaller and still growing. It pointed out U.S. Federal laws in the area are weak, with regulation split between too many agencies, and that research funding and enforcement in the country are inadequate.

The 200-page report said rates of some cancers in children were rising inexplicably, and recent research had found umbilical cord blood contained industrial chemicals, which meant children were being “bombarded” with exposure to a combination of before they were born. The report also noted that the impact of chemicals on fetuses, babies and young children is not known.

The report also criticized government standards for work place exposure to , saying they were outdated, and the U.S. needs a complete overhaul of laws pertaining to these chemicals. The system in place at present requires the government to prove beyond doubt a chemical is unsafe rather than requiring the manufacturer to prove the chemical is safe.

The standards of proof are so high the U.S. government has been unable to prove is unsafe, despite the fact it has been banned in many other countries because it is recognized as a carcinogen. Of the roughly 80,000 chemicals used commercially in the U.S. only about 200 have been assessed for safety by Federal regulators. The panel urged the president to use his power to remove from the environment toxins that “needlessly increase health care costs,” devastate lives, and cripple the country’s productivity.

Around 1.5 million Americans were diagnosed with cancer in 2009, and over half a million died from cancer the same year, making it the biggest killer of Americans after heart disease.

The members of the panel were Margaret Kripke, Emeritus Professor of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, and Professor of Surgery, Dr. LaSalle Leffall, from the Howard University College of Medicine in Washington D.C. They were originally appointed by President George W. Bush.

More information: deainfo.nci.nih.gov/advisory/pcp/pcp.htm

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7 comments

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Szkeptik
5 / 5 (2) May 07, 2010
LOL at American safety standards. The government has to prove that it's unsafe. How ridiculous is that?
krundoloss
5 / 5 (1) May 07, 2010
Yeah, I understand as it falls in line with the whole "Innocent until proven guilty" theme, but these chemicals are not natural and should be scritinized to death. We are getting cancer far too often and I think we need to lock things down. Industrial chemicals in cord blood? WTF! Thats horrible!
Bookbinder
5 / 5 (1) May 07, 2010
We have very reasonable rules which require proof of safety for any medication whether it is to be injected or ingested. In fact any compound, released into the environment in any way, is ultimately absorbed by the human body in one way or another. So logically, should we not require EVERY releasable compound to be safety proven? And should we not eliminate the grandfathering of chemicals developed before environmental rules came about?
Yes
not rated yet May 07, 2010
Around 1.5 million Americans were diagnosed with cancer in 2009, and over half a million died from cancer the same year, making it the biggest killer of Americans after heart disease.

1/3 of cancer cases is curable?
Parsec
4 / 5 (3) May 07, 2010
Yeah, I understand as it falls in line with the whole "Innocent until proven guilty" theme, but these chemicals are not natural and should be scritinized to death. We are getting cancer far too often and I think we need to lock things down. Industrial chemicals in cord blood? WTF! Thats horrible!

Please remember nature has been cooking up horrible nasties for us for billions of years. Things like afflotoxin and Botox came from mother natures industrial plants. Its a mistake to differentiate between whats natural and whats not.
ToddC
3 / 5 (1) May 07, 2010
Note the American Cancer Society disputes the findings in the President's Cancer Panel report. ACS says the report overstates the number of cases of environmentally caused cancer, and recommends focusing on lifestyle changes (smoking, diet and exercise) to combat cancer effectively.
http://acspressro...ronment/
zbarlici
not rated yet May 08, 2010
"umbilical cord blood contained industrial chemicals, which meant children were being �bombarded� with exposure" That`s just wrong.

On another note, one time when i was at the midwife`s office with my preagnant wife, & i picked up a magazine that was around in the office. In it there was an article which compared the breastmilk of N. American mothers with that of the European mothers, and it was stating that the amount of foreign chemicals in the American mother`s breast milk FAR exceeded what was in the European mother`s milk. KUDOS TO THE AMERICAN CHEMICAL SAFETY STANDARDS AND ALL THE BABIES BORN SICK FOR LIFE

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