Written by Lindsay Dahl, Deputy Director of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families.
It’s October, and for most of us that means pink ribbons on t-shirts, products and food. I just walked past a popular food chain to find people carrying their salads in bright pink, plastic, to-go containers. Breast Cancer Awareness month should be commended; it has done a lot to bring breast cancer into the public forum, allowing people to share their stories and build community. But why is the conversation always about the cure and never the cause of cancer?
There are many reasons one may develop breast cancer, a delicate dance between our lifestyle, where we live, the food we eat, genetics and environmental factors like toxic chemicals. But what if we could eliminate one of those important and overlooked factors?
According to the 2010 President’s Cancer Panel, appointed by George W. Bush, “. . . the true burden of environmentally induced cancer has been grossly underestimated.” If environmentally induced cancers are underestimated, how many cases could we prevent by simply removing toxic chemicals from consumer products?
Many of the products we use in our daily lives contain toxic chemicals that are linked to breast cancer and other health problems. A common chemical, bisphenol A (BPA), has become a household name. Commonly found in hard, polycarbonate plastic, food can linings and thermal receipts (think of the shiny receipts you get at the gas station), this chemical is ubiquitous.
BPA is a synthetic estrogen that is linked to a host of health effects including breast and prostate cancer, hormone disruption, insulin resistance, early puberty and more. (Here are some tips to protect your family from BPA.) So the question remains, how does a chemical like BPA get on the market in the first place?
Contrary to popular belief, the majority of chemicals used in our consumer products are not tested for safety before they are allowed on the market. Due to antiquated federal laws, we have little assurance that the products we have in our home are safe. The President’s Cancer Panel report even goes on to say that our government agencies are “failing to carry out their responsibilities” and concludes with specific recommendations for overhauling our nation’s out of date laws on toxic chemicals.
So what’s a person to do?
First, I encourage people to check out our quick tip guide. These are steps you can take to protect yourself (and your family) from toxic chemicals.
Second, and most important, we need everyone to contact their Members of Congress and ask them to support the Safe Chemicals Act. This bill passed its first committee in July and marked the first vote to update our laws on toxic chemicals in 36 years!
Third, we’re hosting a Healthy Families Day of Action today.
Here are several ways you can participate in our day of action:
- Ask candidates to reject Big Chemical’s agenda and support the Safe Chemicals agenda.
- Call both candidates campaign offices and ask them to support the Safe Chemicals agenda.
- When candidates knock on your door, ask them where they stand on toxic chemical regulation and other issues that are important to you.
- Write a letter to the editor to your local newspaper calling on all candidates to support protections from toxic chemicals. Tips for writing a letter can be found here.
At the end of the day, cancer awareness is incredibly important. I hope that we can work together to raise awareness and urge Congress to help us prevent cancer where possible. We shouldn’t have to worry about toxic chemicals in our consumer products. Lets join together for a healthier future!
Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families is a coalition of over 450 organizations and businesses dedicated to protecting American families from toxic chemicals. Our goal it to pass strong laws in Washington that increase the safety of chemicals.
Photo courtesy of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families