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Daily News Archive
From September 26, 2005                                                                                                           

Report Links Environmental and Occupational Exposures to Cancers
(Beyond Pesticides, September 26, 2005)
The University of Massachusetts Lowell today released a report earlier this week that links dozens of environmental and occupational exposures to nearly 30 types of cancer. The new study by the University¹s Lowell Center for Sustainable Production reviewed scientific evidence documenting associations between environmental and occupational exposures and certain cancers in the United States marking the first time this massive body of material has been summarized in one, accessible document.

“Environmental and Occupational Causes of Cancer: A Review of Recent Scientific Evidence” shows that many cancer cases and deaths are caused or contributed to by involuntary exposures. These include: bladder cancer from the primary solvent used in dry cleaning, breast cancer from endocrine disruptors like bisphenol-A and other plastics components, lung cancer from residential exposure to radon, non-Hodgkin¹s lymphoma from solvent and herbicide exposure, and childhood leukemia from pesticides.

“We need to pay attention to environmental and occupational risk factors,” said Molly Jacobs, project manager. “Known and preventable exposures are clearly responsible for tens of thousands of excess cancer cases each year. It is unconscionable not to implement policy changes that we know will prevent sickness and death.”

“The sum of the evidence makes an airtight case for reconsideration of chemicals policies in the U.S.,” said Dr. Richard W. Clapp, Ph.D., lead epidemiologist for the report and adjunct professor at UMass Lowell. “We need to follow the example of the European Union’s REACH program, which prevents the use of known or suspected carcinogens when suitable substitutes are readily available.”

Despite notable gains in reducing incidence and mortality rates for certain cancers, the authors lament that cancer constitutes a growing burden on society. They note that the mortality rate for all cancers combined (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer) is the same today as it was in the 1940s and the annual rate of new cases increased by 85 percent over the past 50 years.

“Major cancer agencies have largely avoided the urgency of acting on what we know to prevent people from getting cancer in the first place,” said researcher Genevieve Howe.

The report disputes the often-cited, 25 year-old analysis by Sir Richard Doll and Richard Peto that attributes only 2 to 4 percent of cancers to involuntary environmental and occupational exposures. “Our review makes it clear that new knowledge about multiple causes of cancer, including involuntary exposures, early-life exposures, synergistic effects, and genetic factors, renders making such estimates not just pointless, but counterproductive,” Dr. Clapp said.

The full press release, Executive Summary, and report are available at: http://www.sustainableproduction.org/pres.shtml

TAKE ACTION: Write to U.S.EPA Acting Administrator Stephen Johnson to let him know that they have a duty to alert the public to the scientific findings (laboratory and epidemiologic) that link pesticides and other environmental exposures with cancer. In addition, urge EPA officials to initiate an urgent and expedited review of pesticides' link to cancer.