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Environmental Health Risks: Not Just Cancer



May 14, 2010

WASHINGTON, D.C. - A recent report delivered to President Obama by a special panel appointed by President Bush warned that the risk of cancer from environmental toxins is "grossly under-estimated." But, making the situation even worse, say many health professionals, are the other ill effects of such pollutants. Dr. Kristen Welker-Hood is with Physicians for Social Responsibility.

"There can be Attention Deficit Disorder, or memory problems, there can be problems with your 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."

Welker-Hood says the President's Cancer Report "got it right," in recommending a precautionary approach to reduce exposures, even if there's scientific uncertainty 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."

The report said Americans are bombarded - even before they are born - by combinations of toxic exposures.

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 public remains unaware that children are far more vulnerable to environmental toxins and radiation than adults, according to the report. At the Sensory Learning Center in Boulder, Colo., executive director Mary Bolles treats children with such afflictions as autism, ADD and ADHD.

"I've seen thousands of young children in the last twenty years, and more and more we see young children with neurological issues."

The American Cancer society took a different tack in it's criticism of the President's Cancer Panel report, saying it gave short shrift to the major, known causes of cancer, such as tobacco, sunlight, alcohol and obesity.

February 2014 update: The report is archived at deainfo.nic.nih.gov

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - NY