Would You Like Some Cancer With Your Cocktail?
A consortium of leading scientists from around the world has examined the issue of exposure to common chemicals and the risk of cancer. The effort is historic. "A review on this scale, looking at environmental chemicals from the perspective of all the major hallmarks of cancer, is unprecedented,” said Professor Andrew Ward from the University of Bath, United Kingdom. And the results are frightening. They examined 85 chemicals that are all-too-common in the environment. None are branded as carcinogenic, yet 50 of them were linked to processes in the body that support the development of cancer.
The massive global undertaking was prompted by concerns over the “combined and additive” effects of various chemicals that are commonly encountered in many people’s environments. The findings suggest that people are exposed to a questionable cocktail of various chemicals on a routine basis. And despite the alleged “safety” of these chemicals, there’s evidence that this toxic stew can promote cancer in the human body.
Evidently, much of the risk is due to the combinations of chemicals that are encountered. "This research backs up the idea that chemicals not considered harmful by themselves are combining and accumulating in our bodies to trigger cancer and might lie behind the global cancer epidemic we are witnessing,” said cancer biologist Dr Hemad Yasaei from Brunel University, London. “We urgently need to focus more resources to research the effect of low dose exposure to mixtures of chemicals in the food we eat, air we breathe, and water we drink.”
Sadly, our nation’s only statute governing chemicals was approved in 1976, but has never been updated. Critics argue that it’s long overdue for an overhaul. All parties agree the existing law is far from sufficient—it essentially gives chemical companies nearly free rein to do whatever they like. The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, introduced in 2013, continues to languish in committee.
We desperately need this reform to restore consumer confidence that the chemicals we’re being exposed to on a routine basis are actually safe for humans. The present international research detailed here suggests these common chemicals are definitely not entirely safe, at present. The new Act would require chemical companies to make common-sense changes, such as showing that new chemicals are safe BEFORE they’re introduced to the market. I’ll bet you thought that was already the case. Seems like a no-brainer. But it’s not. And that’s just not right, in my opinion. The new Act would also explicitly require protections for vulnerable populations, such as pregnant women and young children. Again, no such protections presently exist. And that’s just not right.
W. H. Goodson, L. Lowe, et al. Assessing the carcinogenic potential of low-dose exposures to chemical mixtures in the environment: the challenge ahead. Carcinogenesis, 2015; 36 (Suppl 1): S254 DOI: 10.1093/carcin/bgv039