Environmental Health Risks: Not Just Cancer
This month, a special cancer panel appointed by President Bush presented its findings to President Obama. It warned that environmentally caused cancers are "grossly underestimated." But it's not just cancer that troubles some health professionals, says Dr. Kristen Welker-Hood, director of Environment and Health Programs for Physicians for Social Responsibility. The range of potential problems is vast, she warns.
"There can be Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), memory problems or problems with the hormone system. There can be infertility issues; there can be respiratory or cardiovascular issues or even metabolic. For example, the development of type 2 diabetes."
The report says the public remains largely unaware that children are far more vulnerable to environmental toxins and radiation than adults and that Americans are bombarded with them, even before they are born.
According to Welker-Hood, the President's Cancer Panel "got it right" in calling for a precautionary approach to reduce exposures, even if questions still exist about whether certain chemicals or radio waves cause cancer.
"The thing that I would love to see a report come out and talk about also, is the other things that can happen in the human body because of chemical exposure, not just cancer. That's not the only thing we care about."
Health educator and radio host Camilla Rees says the eventual development of cancer is only one concern. More immediate symptoms are equally troubling.
"We cannot only be focusing on the long-term effects like the potential for cancers through DNA breaks and other mechanisms, but we need to also be thinking about the acute symptoms that people experience."
The report, "Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk - What We Can Do Now," is available from the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services at http://deainfo.nci.nih.gov/advisory/pcp/pcp08-09rpt/PCP_Report_08-09_508.pdf.