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Report says dangers of chemicals are ‘grossly underestimated’

May 7th, 2010

From Green Right Now Reports

Public health officials have “grossly underestimated” the likelihood that environmental contaminants trigger a large proportion of the cancers diagnosed in 1.5 million Americans annually, according to a landmark report issued by the President’s Cancer Panel.

The panel’s findings, announced yesterday, are expected to intensify pressure on the chemical industry and its allies in Congress to endorse toxic chemicals policy reforms proposed in the Senate by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and being drafted in the House by Reps. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) and Henry Waxman (D-Calif.).

“The grievous harm from this group of carcinogens has not been addressed adequately by the National Cancer Program,” the panel told President Obama. “The American people—even before they are born—are bombarded continually with myriad combinations of these dangerous exposures.”

“The incidence of some cancers, including some most common among children, is increasing for unexplained reasons,” the panel said.

“There are far too many known and suspected cancer-causing chemicals in products people, young and old, use every day of their lives,” Kenneth A. Cook, president and co-founder of Environmental Working Group, said in a statement. “Tests of umbilical cord blood are proof positive that American children are being exposed to hundreds of carcinogenic chemicals before they are born. Many of these chemicals are believed to be time bombs, altering the genetic-level switching mechanisms that lead to cancerous cellular growth in later life.”

In studies of cord blood in 2005 and 2009, EWG found a total of 201 known and suspected carcinogens in 20 babies. In a series of 11 research studies of the human body burden, from newborns to elderly people, EWG has detected up to 493 chemicals in people.

“As this prestigious group’s report underscores, the federal government has failed to take aggressive action to protect people from chemicals that cause cancer,” Cook said. “The tide is shifting, thanks to irrefutable scientific research and a strengthening of political will in Washington.”

Richard Wiles, EWG co-founder and Senior Vice President for Policy and Communications, was one of 47 experts who testified before the panel. According to the government report, Wiles charged that EPA typically compromises water pollution standards because making the environment truly safe is too expensive. The agency, said Wiles, “allows a certain amount of risk as a trade-off for cleaning up the water… I think our public policies need to be revisited because we’re trading disease for costs probably unnecessarily.”

EWG issued a list of tips so that people can immediately reduce their exposure to cancer-causing chemicals.


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