The following post is from Charlotte Brody, Vice President of Health Initiatives for the BlueGreen Alliance.
Three months ago, a six-year study found that women employed in the automotive plastics and food-packaging industries in Canada were five times as likely to develop breast cancer — prior to menopause — as women in the control group. An accompanying analysis shows that these women’s work environments are heavily contaminated with dust and fumes that contain vinyl chloride, acrylonitrile and styrene and other mammary carcinogens and endocrine disrupting chemicals including bisphenol-a (BPA), phthalates and brominated flame retardants.
Then last week, a Congressionally mandated committee of breast cancer experts released “Breast Cancer and the Environment: Prioritizing Prevention,” that concludes that preventing environmental exposures — including exposures to endocrine disruptors and other chemicals linked to breast cancer — is the most promising path to decreasing the incidence of the disease.
Yesterday, a panel of international experts for the United National Environmental Programme and the World Health Organization reported that evidence linking hormone-mimicking chemicals to human health problems has grown stronger over the past decade, becoming a "global threat" that must be resolved. The 16 scientists reviewed the State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals-2013 and found that the rates of endocrine related cancers (breast, ovarian, prostrate, testicular and thyroid) and other hormone-related diseases are increasing globally and that reducing chemical exposures needs to become an important focus.
What’s the right response to this trend? At the personal level, you can do what you can do to limit your own and your family’s exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals. Microwaving in glass instead of plastic, choosing fragrance or phthalate-free personal care products and doing most of your grocery shopping in the outside aisles of the store — where healthier, less pre-packaged food is usually found — can all help some.
But as these three reports show, we can’t shop our way out of cancer and chemicals. We need new laws, new research and safer production practices and products. Here’s how you or your organization can help to move these three responses.
Congress can help reduce the global threat of endocrine disrupting chemicals by reforming the 1976 Toxics Substances Control Act. Safer Chemicals Healthy Families is the national coalition that includes the BlueGreen Alliance and many of its partners that is focused on convincing Congress to modernize this broken and out of date law.
To implement the recommendations of the Prioritizing Prevention report, the Breast Cancer Fund is calling on U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius to create an action plan for a national prevention strategy. You can write to Secretary Sebelius today to urge her to take this critical step.
Safer production practices and products can create tens of thousands of green jobs in a revitalized American manufacturing sector. Breast cancer free cars and trucks. Food that keeps us nourished and healthy without packaging that makes food packing workers and consumers sick. We need a national Blue-Green effort to transition and expand American manufacturing to making products that are healthier for the workers who make them and the families that use them. Watch this space for more information on how you can help.