New Report Warns About Chemicals and Cancer
SOURCE: The New York Times: May 5, 2010
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
The President’s Cancer Panel is the Mount Everest of the medical mainstream, so it is astonishing to learn that it is poised to join ranks with the organic food movement and declare: chemicals threaten our bodies.
The cancer panel is releasing a landmark 200-page report on Thursday, warning that our lackadaisical approach to regulation may have far-reaching consequences for our health.
I’ve read an advance copy of the report, and it’s an extraordinary document. It calls on America to rethink the way we confront cancer, including much more rigorous regulation of chemicals.
Traditionally, we reduce cancer risks through regular doctor visits, self-examinations and screenings such as mammograms. The President’s Cancer Panel suggests other eye-opening steps as well, such as giving preference to organic food, checking radon levels in the home and microwaving food in glass containers rather than plastic.
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.’ ”
It’s striking that this report emerges not from the fringe but from the mission control of mainstream scientific and medical thinking, the President’s Cancer Panel. Established in 1971, this is a group of three distinguished experts who review America’s cancer program and report directly to the president.
One of the seats is now vacant, but the panel members who joined in this report are Dr. LaSalle Leffall Jr., an oncologist and professor of surgery at Howard University, and Dr. Margaret Kripke, an immunologist at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Both were originally appointed to the panel by former President George W. Bush.
“We wanted to let people know that we’re concerned, and that they should be concerned,” Professor Leffall told me.
The report blames weak laws, lax enforcement and fragmented authority, as well as the existing regulatory presumption that chemicals are safe unless strong evidence emerges to the contrary.
“Only a few hundred of the more than 80,000 chemicals in use in the United States have been tested for safety,” the report says. It adds: “Many known or suspected carcinogens are completely unregulated.”
Thanks to my nutrition mentor Barbara Lagoni for drawing my attention to this article!