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Groundbreaking Government Report Says Chemicals Cause Cancer


In an alarming report released last week, the President’s Cancer Panel confirmed what many public health activists have been saying for years: Toxic chemicals in the air, water and in our food are literally killing us.

The advisory panel, which is affiliated with the National Institutes of Health, says that Americans are facing “grievous harm” from unregulated toxic chemicals in the environment.

About 1.5 million Americans were diagnosed with cancer and 562,000 died of the disease in 2009 alone. According to the report, “the incidence of some cancers, including some most common among children, is increasing for unexplained reasons,” and exposure to chemical toxins may be to blame.

The 240-page report admonishes the U.S. government for taking a reactionary, rather than precautionary, approach to dealing with chemical threats, and calls for a new national strategy focused on minimizing the negative impact of such chemicals on human health. Under the current regulatory system, the government does not act until there is proof that a chemical is harmful, which means that Americans are exposed to many chemicals whose safety hasn’t yet been definitively established.

The report’s authors said in a letter to President Obama prefacing the report:

“With nearly 80,000 chemicals on the market in the United States, many of which are used by millions of Americans in their daily lives and are un- or understudied and largely unregulated, exposure to potential environmental carcinogens is widespread. One such ubiquitous chemical, bisphenol A (BPA), is still found in many consumer products and remains unregulated in the United States, despite the growing link between BPA and several diseases, including various cancers.”

Many public health activists see the publication of this government report as a breakthrough for the environmental and organic movements in the U.S. They consider huge step in the right direction — one which will hopefully lead to a more precautionary approach to regulation of chemical use by the food, pharmaceutical and other industries. However, the report has drawn criticism from some who say that it portrays the risk of environmental hazards in an alarmist fashion. The American Cancer Society released an online reaction which criticized the report for being “unbalanced” and potentially even doing a disservice to the public by diverting attention from modifiable lifestyle risk factors, like smoking and obesity.

The panel says that while more research is needed to determine the long-term effects of exposure to toxic chemicals, they firmly believe that the “true burden of environmentally induced cancer has been grossly underestimated.” And, they strongly urge individuals to take precautionary measures to minimize exposure to toxins while we wait for more research to be done and new policy enacted.

Here is some of the advice the report offers:

  • Buy organic produce, or produce grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers, when possible.
  • Buy antibiotic and hormone-free meats, and avoid processed, charred and well-done meats.
  • Store water and food in containers that are free of BPA and phthalates, and don’t microwave food in plastic containers.
  • Filter your drinking water.
  • Avoid using products that contain potentially hazardous chemicals in your home. (You can look up the potential hazards of such items in the Household Products Database.)
  • If you are exposed to chemicals while you are on the job, remove your shoes when you enter your home, and wash your work clothes separately from other laundry.
  • Check the radon levels in your home. (Radon is a natural source of radiation which has been linked to cancer.)

Sources include:

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35 responses to “Groundbreaking Government Report Says Chemicals Cause Cancer”

  1. Lynn says:

    Wow I can't believe that this report has drawn so much criticism. Seems like a no-brainer to me.

    I read just the other day that California has approved a chemical called methyl iodide, which is known to cause cancer, for use as a pesticide on strawberries. This is disturbing news… You always read that berries are one of the foods that you should always buy organic, and this news sure makes that seem like really good advice.

    Here's a link to the article I read:…

    • casieLee says:

      Wow, thanks Lynn! I just posted this to the Stop Aging Now facebook wall because that is certainly something to share with our readers. With California being a state to usually lead others in a direction of more sustainable food and environmentally friendly practices, it's a shame that methyl iodide would get approved.

    • BethF says:

      So disturbing!

      I do try to buy organic, but sometimes it's just not always possible.

      I have been using a product called Environne Fruit & Vegetable Wash for a good 6-7 years. Before eating any fruits or veggies, I wash them off using this product (it's really easy to use…just pour a little on the fruit and then wash your fruit and veggies off as you normally would).

      Environne removes pesticide, fungicide and herbicide residues, waxes and oils. So if you can't always buy organic, using a product like this definitely helps keeps the food we eat safe, or safer, than just rinsing with regular water.

      I have always found Environne at Trader Joes. Whole Foods sometimes has it, but they often just carry the spray (which I am not a fan of…I like the one that you pour on).

      Anyhow, if you are interested in the product, here's their website

      • CasieT says:

        Thats awesome, Ive been meaning to try that. I get so torn because I want to buy organic but when I do I feel like the fruits go bad in 1 day. I need to adopt the European approach maybe and shop for F & Vs every other day but its nice to know theres at lease one alternative to spoiled fruit.

        • BethF says:

          I love the stuff. It really does wash off the dirt and wax on the non-organic fruits and veggies. And it has no smell or taste, which is great. Totally try it!

  2. Sue says:

    I think the best thing to do is protect yourself. We need to be knowledgeable about the products we use and the things we put into our bodies. I don’t think the government, in the condition it is in right now, with the deficit growing leaps and bounds each day is going to have the money to put programs into place that help protect consumers from dangerous chemicals. I think the suggestions in this article are great. And, the Household Products Database link ( you provided is loaded with great information. I know I will be referring to it often.

    • Bob Greene says:

      Deficit or no deficit, poisons in our environment represent a clear and present danger unlike any terrorist attack could accomplish.

      Safe food and water must be made a priority by properly regulating industry– the source (both admitted and widely documented) of most of it.

      With economic recovery, deficits will become more manageable, but delay already has made the environmental toxic burden almost unmanageable.

  3. BethF says:

    There has also been a lot of talk recently about parabens and how they too can cause cancer….and they are in so many of our skin care products.

    I know there are different types of parabens, and think some are more dangerous than others, but I'm not exactly sure.

    Which are the parabens we should definitely avoid? Are all of them harmful?

    • Mina says:

      That's a good question, and one that I think a lot of people wonder about. As I understand it, all types of parabens (methyl, propyl, butyl and ethyl) have endocrine-disrupting effects, and should be avoided. Parabens mimic estrogen in the body, and can interfere with your body´s endocrine system, disrupting your body's delicate balance of hormones, and leading to a wide range of potential health problems.

      There are also some environmental concerns associated with our excessive use of parabens as a society. The EPA has expressed concern they may be accumulating in our waters and affecting the ecosystem.

      Look an article next week on the dangers of parabens and other chemicals to watch out for in personal care products.

      • Lissa says:

        It's unfortunate so many of our beauty products contain parabens and other toxic substances. They are cheaper to purchase monetarily, but the cost health wise may not be worth it. The great thing today is being able to purchase products that are free of toxins. They may cost more, but definitely less regarding our health.

        I think it's great we are becoming more aware and informed about what we should put on our skin. It will be great if at some point, sooner rather than later, more companies phase out using toxic substances.

    • valeriegitelson says:

      That is so disturbing.. we think we are doing good by protecting our skin when in all realty we could be harming ourselves…

  4. galemaleskey says:

    Hurray to the government for finally doing this! It can take years of exposure before the cancer, neurological damage or or chronic disease from exposure to environmental chemicals becomes apparent. That's one reason it's been difficult to confirm the harmful effects. Besides avoiding these chemicals as best we can, we can shield ourselves from their effects with the right nutrients.

    • Mina says:

      I'm glad you brought that up, Gale! Antioxidant-rich foods and supplements like green tea, curcumin and alpha lipoic acid (among others) can offer significant protection from the effects of the toxins in the air, etc. that are impossible to avoid completely.

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