Anyone who has paid attention to cancer rates and scientific studies dealing with the everyday toxins we are subjected to knows that, yes, many chemicals are bad for us. Bad, bad, bad. Cancer-causing bad.
The European Union legislates the use of chemicals on the precautionary principle–if there is any doubt about a substance’s safety, ban it until it is proven innocent. But in the United States we have taken the opposite approach–substances are legal until they are proven lethal, and with all of the lobbying in favor of toxic chemicals, many dangerous substances are allowed. Case in point: the EU has a ban on approximately 1,100 ingredients used in cosmetics, the US bans less than a dozen.
So what’s the shocking news? In an op-ed in The New York Times, Nicholas D. Kristof writes about the President’s Cancer Panel, “the Mount Everest of the medical mainstream,” which released a landmark 200-page report warning that “our lackadaisical approach to regulation may have far-reaching consequences for our health.” Someone finally woke up and smelled the BPA.
The report blames weak laws, lax enforcement and fragmented authority, as well as the existing regulatory presumption that chemicals are safe unless strong evidence emerges to the contrary. Hello precautionary principle! The report notes that “only a few hundred of the more than 80,000 chemicals in use in the United States have been tested for safety,” adding that “many known or suspected carcinogens are completely unregulated.”
I can already hear the loud, growling roar of the major chemical companies’ PR departments revving up their spin control–it’s not going to be pretty. But for now we have something yet to be seen, a government agency giving legitimacy to what many of us have long known: chemicals cause cancer.
Next: How to reduce the risk of cancer.