Cancer kills 60 Americans every hour

by Rick Hind

May 19, 2011

Safer Chemicals at the White House

That’s why we invited you to sign a petition to urge President Obama to use all of his authority to start preventing cancer. 

Some 25,000 of you signed the Greenpeace petition. Today we added your names to more than 50,000 others and presented them to the White House.

Greenpeace along with members of the Safer Chemicals Healthy Families Coalition delivered your names to the Chair of the President’s Council on Environmental Quality, Nancy Sutley. At the meeting we urged the President’s advisors to make cancer prevention a national priority. Specifically we told them that the President should use his “bully pulpit” to demand that Congress reform the 35 year old law called the Toxics Substances Control Act (TSCA), which allows cancer causing chemicals in our homes, schools and work places.

Our meeting took place one year after the release of a National Cancer Institute (NCI) report to the President called, “Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk What We Can Do Now.”

We’ve all had too many friends and family members either diagnosed or struck down by cancer.  According to the NCI report, 41 percent of Americans will likely get that news and 21 percent of them will die from cancer. Cancer is the leading cause of death from disease in children under 15. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death in women, exceeded only by lung cancer.

In their report to the President, the NCI report authors included a letter which said, “The Panel urges you most strongly to use the power of your office to remove the carcinogens and other toxins from our food, water, and air that needlessly increase health care costs, cripple our Nation’s productivity, and devastate American lives.” With more than 80,000 chemicals on the market, exposure to actual and potential cancer-causing chemicals is widespread.

Excerpts from the NCI Report to the President:

“Environmental health, including cancer risk, has been largely excluded from overall national policy on protecting and improving the health of Americans. It is more effective to prevent disease than to treat it, but cancer prevention efforts have focused narrowly on smoking, other lifestyle behaviors, and chemopreventive interventions. Scientific evidence on individual and multiple environmental exposure effects on disease initiation and outcomes, and consequent health system and societal costs are not being adequately integrated into national policy decisions and strategies for disease prevention, health care access, and health system reform.”

“U.S. regulation of environmental contaminants is rendered ineffective by five major problems: (1) inadequate funding and insufficient staffing, (2) fragmented and overlapping authorities coupled with uneven and decentralized enforcement, (3) excessive regulatory complexity, (4) weak laws and regulations, and (5) undue industry influence. Too often, these factors, either singly or in combination, result in agency dysfunction and a lack of will to identify and remove hazards.

Did you know that it’s perfectly legal to add known cancer-causing chemicals to products we use every day in our homes, schools and workplaces?  In 2009, approximately 1.5 million American men, women, and children were diagnosed with cancer, and 562,000 were killed by it.

President Obama and the Congress have the ability to reverse decades of failed policies and set the course for a national cancer prevention strategy that includes eliminating the use of cancer-causing chemicals in everyday products. But they won’t do it if people everywhere don’t speak out.

Toxic chemicals are in our clothing, furniture, cleaning products, plastics, and shower curtains used by children, women, and men across the nation on a daily basis.  It’s time to banish them from our homes, schools and workplaces.

EPA Adminstrator Lisa Jackson has called for reform of the TSCA and issued principles to guide Congress. On April 14th a bill was introduced in the Senate to reform the antiquated TSCA law. Urge the Congress to enact legislation that takes carcinogens out of our lives. For more on the legislation and what you can do, click here.

Rick Hind

By Rick Hind

Rick is the legislative director at Greenpeace USA. Since he joined the organization in 1991, he is a go-to source for journalists covering toxics and chemical security issues. He has been quoted in a wide range of national publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, CBS News, NPR, FOX, and many more.

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