CHILDREN'S CANCER ON THE RISE
From The Cancer Chronicles #10
© Autumn 1991 by Ralph W. Moss, Ph.D.
[At the end of June, 1991, The New York Times published
an article on the rise in childhood cancer. On 6/16/91 the Times printed
the following letter from Prof. Samuel S. Epstein of the University of
Illinois and myself--RWM]:
The article of June 26 understates the problem of childhood cancer and
overstates the mystery. Scientists, it says, are "just now learning of
the latest statistics" that show a 4 percent increase in childhood cancer
from 1973 to 1988. But last year, the National Cancer Institute reported
a 28 percent increase in the incidence of childhood cancer from 1950 to
It is also stated that scientists have "few clues to the reasons for
the jump." Yet, more than 20 studies in the United States and elsewhere
have demonstrated clear associations between childhood cancers and
exposures to carcinogenic chemicals. The three most common childhood
malignancies, kidney and brain cancers and acute leukemia, are often related
to occupational exposure of fathers and mothers. Such exposure includes
organic solvents, hydrocarbons, paints, dyes and pigments. Children of
mechanics and mining and aircraft workers are also at risk.
You gloss over the substantial association between childhood cancer
and exposure to pesticides. Clusters of acute leukemia are found in agricultural
counties with heavy pesticide use, particularly for cotton production.
Additionally, brain tumors have been associated with home termite treatment.
Of 34 pesticides repeatedly applied commercially to lawns, at up to Þve
times agricultural rates, 10 are well recognized carcinogens.
As documented by the Food and Drug Administration, residues of numerous
carcinogenic pesticides are commonly found in most fruits and vegetables.
Additionally, milk and other dairy products are often laden with carcinogenic
pesticides and antibiotics. Factory farm meat, particularly liver, veal,
frankfurters and ham-burgers, are also contaminated with carcinogenic
pesticides, besides growth- stimulating sex hormones and other feed additives.
The Bush Administration has þung open the þoodgates to carcinogens in
our food...[it] has in effect revoked the 1958 Delaney law, which banned
intentional contamination of food with any level of carcinogen.
Instead, the EPA now allows residues of any carcinogenic pesticide in
any food at levels posing allegedly 'acceptable' or 'negligible risk,'
as determined by manipulated numbers. In this, it has surprisingly been
joined by Rep. Henry A. Waxman of California and Senator Edward M. Kennedy
of Massachusetts. However, even the understated EPA estimates show risks
of up to 60,000 excess annual cancers when applied to the numerous pesticides
contaminating a plateful of food.
The Delaney law is crucial in protecting children from carcinogens in
food. The fetus, infant and young child are much more susceptible to carcinogens
than adults. Reasons for this include children¹s rapid rate of growth
and cell division, immaturity of detoxifying systems and their proportionally
greater food consumption. This hypersusceptibility results not only in
increased rates of childhood cancer, but also in delayed cancer in adult
life. Illustrative are the rare vaginal cancers in young women whose pregnant
mothers were treated with the carcinogenic DES.
Only a sharp phaseout and ultimately a ban on the manfacture, use and
disposal of carcinogenic chemicals, and their replacement with non-carcinogenic
alternatives and technologies, is likely to reverse the burgeoning toll
of childhood cancers. Such action is also likely to reverse the cancer
epidemic now striking one in four Americans. The highly politicized Federal
agencies and a lethargic, confused Congress are unlikely to act without
any effective grass roots citizen action.
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