The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

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President's Cancer Panel Warns Public About Chemicals

EWG Finds 200 Suspected Carcinogens in Newborns


In a landmark report issued today, the President's Cancer Panel asserts that 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.

"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," wrote the panel in the
Executive Summary of the report.

"There are far too many known and suspected cancer-causing chemicals in
products people, young and old, use every day of their lives," said
Kenneth A. Cook, president and co-founder of Environmental Working Group
(EWG). "Tests of umbilical cord blood are proof positive that American
children are being exposed 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 groundbreaking 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 body'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

The panel's findings 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-NJ, and being
drafted in the House by Reps. Bobby Rush, D-IL, and Henry Waxman, D-CA.

Richard Wiles, EWG co-founder and Senior Vice President for Policy and
Communications, was one of the 47 experts who testified before the
panel. According to the report (p. 54), 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."

"Consumers can't wait for the government to take action or for companies
to act responsibly by removing carcinogens from their products," Cook
said. "Today, EWG is issuing a number tips so that people can
immediately and dramatically reduce their exposure to cancer-causing

Preventing Cancer: Nine Practical Tips for Consumers

Four of every 10 Americans will be diagnosed with cancer in their
lifetimes, and two of every 10 will die of it. But there are some things
you can do to reduce the risk. First, talk to your doctor about
lifestyle changes that are known to make a difference -- stopping
smoking, reducing drinking, losing weight, exercising and eating right.

But according to a new report from the President's Cancer Panel,
environmental toxins also play a significant and under-recognized role
in cancer, causing "grievous harm" to untold numbers of people.
Environmental Working Group's own research has found that children are
born "pre-polluted" with up to 200 industrial chemicals, pesticides and
contaminants that have been found to cause cancer in lab studies or in

Here are some simple things you can do to reduce your exposures:

1. Filter your tap water. Common carcinogens in tap water include
arsenic, chromium, and chemical byproducts that form when water is
disinfected. A simple carbon filter or pitcher can help reduce the
levels of these contaminants. If your water is polluted with arsenic or
chromium, a reverse osmosis filter will help. Learn about your tap water
and home water filters at EWG's National Tap Water Database.

2. Seal outdoor wooden decks and play sets. Those built before 2005 are
coated with an arsenic pesticide that can stick to hands and clothing.
Learn more at

3. Cut down on stain- and grease-proofing chemicals. "Fluorochemicals"
related to Teflon and Scotchgard are used in stain repellants on carpets
and couches and in greaseproof coatings for packaged and fast foods. To
avoid them, avoid greasy packaged foods and say no to optional stain
treatments in the home. Download EWG's Guide to PFCs here:

4. Stay safe in the sun. More than one million cases of skin cancer are
diagnosed in the United States each year. To protect your skin from the
sun's cancer-causing ultraviolet (UV) radiation, seek shade, wear
protective clothing and use a safe and effective sunscreen from EWG's
sunscreen database.

5. Cut down on fatty meat and high-fat dairy products. Long-lasting
cancer-causing pollutants like dioxins and PCBs accumulate in the food
chain and concentrate in animal fat.

6. Eat EWG's Clean 15. Many pesticides have been linked to cancer.
Eating from EWG's Clean 15 list of the least contaminated fruits and
vegetables will help cut your pesticide exposures. (And for EWG's Dirty
Dozen, buy organic.) Learn more at EWG's Shopper's Guide to Pesticides.

7. Cut your exposures to BPA. Bisphenol-A (BPA) is a synthetic estrogen
found in some hard plastic water bottles, canned infant formula, and
canned foods. It may increase the risk of reproductive system cancers.
To avoid it, eat fewer canned foods, breast feed your baby or use
powdered formula, and choose water bottles free of BPA. (More at

8. Avoid carcinogens in cosmetics. Use EWG's Skin Deep cosmetic database
to find products free of chemicals known or suspected to cause cancer.
When you're shopping, don't buy products that list ingredients with
"PEG" or "-eth" in their name.

9. Read the warnings. Some products list warnings of cancer risks -- read
the label before you buy. Californians will see a "Proposition 65"
warning label on products that contain chemicals the state has
identified as cancer-causing.

The Environmental Working Group is a community 30 million strong, working to protect our environmental health by changing industry standards.

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