Monday, June 28, 2010

Why Wait for Cancer?

Four of every ten Americans will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes, and two of every ten will die of it, says Environmental Working Group.

I love this photo.  It's parade time in Syracuse, New York.  I don't know a soul in the photo, but I relate to it - brim full of Every American - man, woman, and child - coming together as community to celebrate.  It makes me cry to think that such a beautiful crowd will fall prey to the statistic above.  Especially when it doesn't have to be this way. 

Today in my email box I got a note from Environmental Working Group saying that The President's Cancer Panel acknowleged in a recent report that environmental toxins are responsible for more cancer than previously acknowleged.  Well, no surprise to most of my readers.  What continues to be a surprise, though, is the range and breadth of common household and personal products that contain dangerous chemicals.  Even if these are present in "harmless" amounts - if there is such a thing - think of the impact when you add up all the different products you're used to using... 

And usually I don't say things without researching them, but I'm going to toss an idea out here that just makes common sense to me.  If you think about it, itty bitty pills create huge changes in our bodies.  A teeny red round pill can stop my nose from dripping.  A minature oblong pink pill can put a case of hives to rest.  A tiny blue oval pill can fell my stress headache in its tracks.  I bet a lot of you know exactly which pills I'm referring to!  If such a diminuitive amount of substance can make such a big difference, why don't we believe that the onslaught of small doses of toxins from our house-cleaning and toiletry products can also make a difference in our health - for the worse - over time?

Environmental Working Group [EWG] is one of my most trusted sources for information about the environmental and health impact of products we use and lifestyle behaviors we choose. Their team collects and analyzes all the best science out there to put myth and hype to rest.

Below are nine tips from EWG for healthier living.  I strongly recommend you go right to their article, though, as they include links to download product information that can make healthy purchasing decisions a lot easier.  And, this is shameless, but if you have a few bucks, EWG is a great organization to support with your charitable donation.  Oh, btw, this link goes straight to EWG's online donation page!

All the rest of the links below lead directly to the article, not to the particular document or data base.

1. Filter your tap water. Common carcinogens in tap water include arsenic, chromium, and chemical byproducts that form when water is disinfected. A simple carbon tap-mounted filter or pitcher can help reduce the levels of some of these contaminants. If your water is polluted with arsenic or chromium, a reverse osmosis filter will help. Learn about your tap water and home water filters at EWG's National Tap Water Database.

2. Seal outdoor wooden decks and play sets. Those built before 2005 are likely coated with an arsenic pesticide that can stick to hands and clothing. Learn more from EWG.

3. Cut down on stain- and grease-proofing chemicals. "Fluorochemicals" related to Teflon and Scotchgard are used in stain repellants on carpets and couches and in greaseproof coatings for packaged and fast foods. To avoid them, avoid greasy packaged foods and say no to optional stain treatments in the home. Download EWG's Guide to PFCs.

4. Stay safe in the sun. More than one million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the United States each year. To protect your skin from the sun's cancer-causing ultraviolet (UV) radiation, seek shade, wear protective clothing and use a safe and effective sunscreen from EWG's sunscreen database.

5. Cut down on fatty meat and high-fat dairy products. Long-lasting cancer-causing pollutants like dioxins and PCBs accumulate in the food chain and concentrate in animal fat.

6. Eat EWG's Clean 15. Many pesticides have been linked to cancer. Eating from EWG's Clean 15 list of the least contaminated fruits and vegetables will help cut your pesticide exposures. (And for EWG's Dirty Dozen, buy organic.) Learn more at EWG's Shopper's Guide to Pesticides.

7. Cut your exposures to BPA. Bisphenol A (BPA) is a synthetic estrogen found in some hard plastic water bottles, canned infant formula, and canned foods. Some of these chemicals cause cancer in lab studies. To avoid them, eat fewer canned foods, breast feed your baby or use powdered formula, and choose water bottles free of BPA. Get EWG's tips to avoid it.

8. Avoid carcinogens in cosmetics. Use EWG's Skin Deep cosmetic database to find products free of chemicals known or suspected to cause cancer. When you're shopping, don't buy products that list ingredients with "PEG" or "-eth" in their name.

9. Read the warnings. Some products list warnings of cancer risks -- read the label before you buy. Californians will see a "Proposition 65" warning label on products that contain chemicals the state has identified as cancer-causing.


  1. There is now as much data on vitamin D preventing cancer as there is on smoking causing cancer, and it is time for everybody to know the facts. Take a look at for some good summaries of the facts. It is now nearly three years since the Canadian Cancer Society started recommending that everyone take vitamin D to prevent cancer

  2. I rarely confirm a comment when the poster wants to sell something, but in this case, mbarnes is absolutely right - if your doctor hasn't insisted that you up your vitamin D intake significantly, please ask him or her about it at the soonest convenience. If you want to see some of the studies for yourself, go to and google "vitamin D dosage" and a fairly recent year, maybe 2007 or 2008. You'll have more to read than you want. Or, here's a blog that reports on vitamins, which sums up some of the more important studies.

  3. oops -