The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Heather Pilatic, PAN North America
(415) 694-8596,

Tens of Thousands Call for White House Action on Cancer-Causing Chemicals

Public Health Groups Deliver Over 70,000 Signatures Calling for a "National Cancer Prevention Plan"


Last May, the Presidential Cancer Panel presented to the President a strongly-worded report confirming that toxic chemicals are a grossly underestimated risk factor for cancer. The Panel urged the President to use the power of his office to "remove the carcinogens and other toxins from our food, water and air that needlessly increase healthcare costs cripple our nations productivity and devastate American lives."

When pressed for response upon the report's release, White House officials gave no indication of intention to heed the report's findings. One year later all of the chemicals of concern listed in the report remain in our agricultural fields, on our food and in commonly used products including clothing, household cleaners and plastics used by children, women, and men on a daily basis.

Today Pesticide Action Network (PAN) joined other members of the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition to meet with White House officials and urge President Obama to take action on this important report, one year later. They presented a petition signed by over 70,000 people from every state in the nation urging the President to make cancer prevention a priority.

"The links between pollutants and cancer simply can't be ignored," says Kathryn Gilje, PAN's Executive Director, who attended the White House meeting. "The evidence is just too strong, and lives across the country are at stake. We called on White House officials to get to work now on the Panel's key recommendation: a national cancer prevention plan."

Cancer takes a devastating toll on individuals and families:

  • 1.5 million new cancer cases were diagnosed in the U.S. in 2009.
  • More children are getting cancer than ever before.
  • One in 5 Americans can expect to die from cancer.

Representatives from the following groups met with officials from the White House Council on Environmental Quality and the Office of Public Engagement: American Nurses Association, Breast Cancer Fund, Greenpeace, Health Care Without Harm, League of Conservation Voters, MomsRising, Pesticide Action Network, Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, and the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network.

"The chemical industry continues to exploit regulatory weakness by introducing chemicals into the environment that have not been proven to be safe," said Andy Igrejas, Director of the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition. "Pregnant women have been found to carry toxic chemicals in their bodies, which leads to babies being born with a burden of chemicals over which they had no control. The majority of Americans are unaware of the dangers of chemical exposure in their daily lives."

Below are excerpts from the petition presented to President Obama on May 19.

Every minute, at least one American will die from cancer. What is particularly frightening about this statistic is that, contrary to general assumption, many of these cancers could have been prevented.

Americans are exposed to cancer-causing chemicals on a daily basis, in the workplace, in classrooms, and even in our homes. Right now, it's perfectly legal to add chemicals known to cause cancer to the products we use every day, including children's toys, furniture, food containers and cosmetics. By setting the course for a national cancer prevention strategy that includes eliminating the use of cancer-causing chemicals, the President can reverse decades of failed policies that have allowed those chemicals to contaminate our lives and endanger our health.

President Obama, please do not wait any longer to act on the Panel's recommendations. Help protect Americans by preventing the use of cancer-causing chemicals and instead promote safer, greener chemistry that will make our nation strong and competitive. We need your leadership to strengthen existing regulations governing toxic chemicals, including the ineffective 1938 Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act and the failed 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act.

To read the full petition please visit:

PANNA (Pesticide Action Network North America) works to replace pesticide use with ecologically sound and socially just alternatives. As one of five autonomous PAN Regional Centers worldwide, we link local and international consumer, labor, health, environment and agriculture groups into an international citizens' action network. This network challenges the global proliferation of pesticides, defends basic rights to health and environmental quality, and works to ensure the transition to a just and viable society.