Nicholas Kristof asks a question I’ve asked many times: what if our chemical-friendly lifestyle is directly linked to our increased death rates from cancer, and other illnesses? Especially since, in the US, toxins don’t have to be proven to be safe1 before they are used. I’d rather we used the European model, and mandated extensive testing before chemicals are allowed. The American Chemistry Council has too much power in this country.
What if breast cancer in the United States has less to do with insurance or mammograms and more to do with contaminants in our water or air — or in certain plastic containers in our kitchens? What if the surge in asthma and childhood leukemia reflect, in part, the poisons we impose upon ourselves?
Dr. Philip Landrigan, the chairman of the department of preventive medicine at Mount Sinai, said that the risk that a 50-year-old white woman will develop breast cancer has soared to 12 percent today, from 1 percent in 1975. (Some of that is probably a result of better detection.) Younger people also seem to be developing breast cancer: This year a 10-year-old in California, Hannah, is fighting breast cancer and recording her struggle on a blog.
Likewise, asthma rates have tripled over the last 25 years, Dr. Landrigan said. Childhood leukemia is increasing by 1 percent per year. Obesity has surged. One factor may be lifestyle changes — like less physical exercise and more stress and fast food — but some chemicals may also play a role.
[Click to continue reading Nicholas Kristof – Cancer From the Kitchen? – NYTimes.com]
and what to do? Simple answer is to make a few changes around your house:
I asked these doctors what they do in their own homes to reduce risks. They said that they avoid microwaving food in plastic or putting plastics in the dishwasher, because heat may cause chemicals to leach out. And the symposium handed out a reminder card listing “safer plastics” as those marked (usually at the bottom of a container) 1, 2, 4 or 5.
It suggests that the “plastics to avoid” are those numbered 3, 6 and 7 (unless they are also marked “BPA-free”). Yes, the evidence is uncertain, but my weekend project is to go through containers in our house and toss out 3’s, 6’s and 7’s.
The “precautionary principle” – adopted by the European Union in 1992 as the basis for regulation of toxic chemicals –- holds that in the face of scientific uncertainty, government should err on the side of protecting public health and safety. In other words, if scientific evidence indicates there is a good chance that a chemical may pose a risk of irreversible harm, regulators should not wait for absolute proof before acting.
One of the major themes running through the internal chemical industry documents investigated in TRADE SECRETS: A MOYERS REPORT is the industry’s opposition to the precautionary principle. It has used its wealth to win favorable treatment from politicians, sponsored surrogates to promote the industry point of view with the media, and now is quietly pushing legislation through state legislatures that will overturn many of the gains citizens believe they have made in their right to information about toxic chemicals.