PREVENTION OF BREAST CANCER
NOHA Member Liane Clorfene-Casten has written an excellent book, Breast Cancer: Poisons, Profits, and Prevention,* which spells out many environmental causes of cancer, particularly breast cancer, and gives us a program for action. She points out that breast cancer is now an epidemic. At present, one in eight American women will get the disease. Since 1960 more than 950,000 have died from breast cancer. "Shockingly, almost half of these deaths have occurred in the last ten years." Putting this in perspective, "only 617,000 Americans died in all the wars our country has fought in this century!"
"For more than 120,000 American women a year, their cancers are caused by environmental poisons—manmade chemicals and radiation that have been produced and distributed worldwide. And the leaders of the ‘war on cancer’ have known this for decades and have refused to deal with this information."
"What’s behind this explosion in breast cancer incidence? . . . . The truth is that 70 percent of women with breast cancer are getting their disease from causes other than genetics, chemical imbalances, and lifestyle. For more than 120,000 American women a year, their cancers are caused by environmental poisons—manmade chemicals and radiation that have been produced and distributed worldwide. And the leaders of the ‘war on cancer’ have known this for decades and have refused to deal with this information." Unfortunately, the correlations between various cancers and these environmental poisons are almost always ignored by the media. Meanwhile, the companies that produce the carcinogens often also produce and profit from the conventional cancer treatments, including chemotherapy and radiation, both of which are toxic and often themselves proven carcinogens.
Public ignorance and the giant PR Firms
Production is exceedingly profitable, of various toxins, of the radiation,
and of patentable chemicals used to treat the awful human health effects
stemming from our exposure to manmade carcinogens. Liane spells out many
examples of multinational corporations that are engaged in this business.
The public remains ignorant. "If there is any issue as toxic as the
poisons themselves, it is the mean-spirited battle for the minds and souls
of the general public on health and environmental issues. We are being
lied to, misguided, misinformed, and deliberately confused because of
the power of large drug and chemical companies to buy high-priced public
relations campaigns and unethical activities.
Dr. Epstein has co-authored The Safe Shopper’s Bible, which spells out the dangers and lists safe alternatives for very many consumer products, including foods.
"Harrison’s ‘commitment’ began when, at the age of 30, he was appointed ‘Manager of Environmental Information’ for the manufacturers of agricultural pesticides and other poisons and was assigned to coordinate and conduct the industry‘s attack against Silent Spring. They hit back with the PR equivalent of a prolonged carpet bombing campaign. No expense was spared in defending the fledgling agrichemical industry and its $300 million/year in sales of DDT and other toxins. The national Agricultural Chemical Association doubled its PR budget and distributed thousands of book reviews trashing Silent Spring. Along the way they pioneered environmental PR ‘crisis management’ techniques that have become standard industry tactics. They used emotional appeals, scientific misinformation, front groups, extensive mailings to the media and opinion leaders, and the recruitment of doctors and scientists as ‘objective’ third-party defenders of agrichemicals. . . .
"Today agrichemical contamination of soil, air, water, animals, and people is one of the most ubiquitous and difficult environmental health disasters we face."
"Due in part to Harrison’s PR work, the warnings of Silent Spring have never been adequately understood or heeded. Today agrichemical contamination of soil, air, water, animals, and people is one of the most ubiquitous and difficult environmental health disasters we face."
Agribusiness is like the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland, who would eat at one place at the table, then leave his dirty dishes and move to the next place. When Alice asked what would happen when he had gone all the way around the table, he changed the subject. Professor Joan Gussov of Columbia University used this simile in her NOHA lecture when she described the actions of multinationals that use contaminating chemicals, destroy the fertility of the soil, and then move on.
"Mixing synergistically with the chemical pollutants in our environment are radioactive pollutants. This radiation comes from various sources, including bomb testing, uranium mines, reprocessing of radioactive ore, and leaking disposal sites. And the general population is also falling victim to planned and unplanned radiation releases from nuclear power and weapons manufacturing plants. Most of these plants were abandoned after major cutbacks in the production of nuclear weapons when the cold war ended. Left behind was massive nuclear contamination of sites all across the country now affecting the land, the water, and the air.
"Do not be fooled by the strange silence about radiation and today’s incidence of breast cancer."
"The dramatic increase of breast cancer over the past four decades is no coincidence.
"This correlation has been downplayed for years by apologists for the nuclear industry, despite overwhelming evidence demonstrating the assault on our bodies." Liane quotes Dr. John Gofman, former director of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories, who stated in 1994:
Liane is familiar with the terrible unreported results from the 1986 Chernobyl explosion, which has left Russia devastated essentially forever by the ravages of nuclear radiation. In June 1994 she went to a three-day international symposium in Moscow on "Women, Politics, Environmental Action." She moderated one panel. "Alexei Yablokov, the Russian equivalent of our EPA administrator, spoke of a drop in average Russian life span from 71 to 59 years. Krystyna of Poland spoke of children whose immune systems were so compromised they had constant colds, flus, bronchitis, asthma, and pneumonia and were failing to thrive. [Another] spoke of increasing numbers of tumors and cancers in the adult population. Young children’s teeth are rotting and falling out—mysteriously.
"Every single Russian who spoke conceded her rage and fear and criticized the government for keeping a lid on the truth. They urged their American counterparts to go home and tell the truth about Chernobyl. I took back with me a video about Vladimir Chernousenko, the physicist in charge of the early cleanup, now considered a pariah by his government. Exiled from his own country and dying from cancer, Chernousenko is spending the rest of his diminished life in an effort to warn the world. He estimates that 65 million people will eventually be affected by eating the hot food, by the long-term effects of cancer, and by the changes in DNA, which will show up as birth defects in the next and subsequent generations."
"Every single Russian who spoke conceded her rage and fear and criticized the government for keeping a lid on the truth. They urged their American counterparts to go home and tell the truth about Chernobyl."
In spite of Three Mile Island and our other aging, often malfunctioning nuclear reactors, the American public is given the impression that here we do not have to worry. "However, a major blast does not seem to be the American way of endangering the populace. Low-level nuclear emissions can and do cause just as much havoc, silently—a fact withheld from the public. The reason this knowledge is treated like classified information is that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the International Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC) are committed to protecting the nuclear industry—in all its permutations: continued military enterprises, nuclear power plants, nuclear medicine, mammography, and others. Billions of dollars are at stake. . . .
"Exposure to these rays may come from within our body as well as from without. We can inhale or ingest radioactive gases, dusts, food, and water, after which the radioactive material sends out its destructive rays. . . . Due to the action of wind and water, toxic pollutants can now be found almost everywhere, even the most remote areas of the globe. And thanks to the accumulative exposure to thousands of toxic contaminants, all beings are imperiled. We can no longer hide from the stark reality that the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, and the places where we work may be profoundly contaminated. As the contamination increases so will the cancer statistics."
In regard to herbicides, "every spring, farmers across the Farm Belt apply 150 million pounds of five herbicides. . . . Drinking water contaminated with these herbicides is a serious public health issue; the manufacturer’s own laboratory studies show that these five herbicides cause nine different types of cancer, various birth defects, and heritable genetic mutations. None of these herbicides is removed by the conventional water treatment technologies that are used by more than 90 percent of the water treatment utilities in the U.S. . . . 3.1 million individuals in 23 cities with populations over 100,000 are exposed to cancer risks from herbicide-contaminated drinking water that exceed federal cancer standards by a factor of 10 or more. (Springfield, Illinois leads the list with the highest lifetime risk.)"
The tremendous amount of information that Liane and others have gathered about the toxic environmental impingements on our health should be publicized widely but isn’t. Liane carefully spells out numerous cases where industry and our government have suppressed information for years and often for decades. For example, in regard to the dioxins, which are exceedingly toxic even in parts per trillion and less and which contaminate chlorinated pesticides, incinerator discharges, and hundreds of industrial processes, Dow Chemical "knew about dioxin’s toxicity for decades." During the Vietnam War, they knew that dioxin was a toxic contaminant of the herbicide "Agent Orange." Nevertheless, they continued to aggressively sell it, both during the war and afterward for home and farm use. "Dow’s own studies showed extreme toxic reactions in animals and humans, . . . including liver damage, nervous system disorders, peripheral neuropathy, and so on. And the medical director along with major administrators, admitted that if chloracne (the nasty tell-tale body and face skin eruptions) shows up, the damage to the body was systemic.
"Dow did three things as part of its corporate policy on herbicides: discussed the problems of their very toxic product internally and secretly; allowed a contaminated and faulty product to be used on innocent victims; and attacked the victims for the very problems the company knew would occur."
"However, when challenged in public about the effects of Agent Orange, Dow’s public relations engine revved up. Spokespersons went on record stating that, ‘Beyond a case of chloracne, there are no other reported health effects due to the exposure to Agent Orange.’ And the company began to attack the veterans who had come home with the predicted Agent Orange exposure symptoms, calling them drugheads. Thus, Dow did three things as part of its corporate policy on herbicides: discussed the problems of their very toxic product internally and secretly; allowed a contaminated and faulty product to be used on innocent victims; and attacked the victims for the very problems the company knew would occur. . . .
"For years, the toxicity of dioxin has been downplayed in the media. Some newspapers, specifically the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune, have had financial interests in pulp and paper mills that bleach with chlorine—a process which spews out dioxin. . . . For a significant period in their history these two major dailies, along with most of the print media, played variations on a recurring theme: ‘Dioxin isn’t as toxic as we thought.’ And the public, uneducated and unaware, bought the line. . . .
"Others who have known about dioxin’s toxicity are Monsanto scientists, the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency], the CDC [Centers for Disease Control], and the National Institutes for Environmental Health Sciences. It takes very little effort for a good reporter to uncover these documents (Clorfene-Casten, The Nation, November 30, 1992)." Liane’s book is full of many detailed cases of cover-up and deception, including harassment of "whistle blowers." She also demonstrates "the revolving door" between government regulators and the major polluting industries.
Pollution crisis in the Great Lakes
In regard to the crisis of pollution in our Great Lakes, a citizens’ Environmental Task Force found a complete lack of reporting in the print media and only one report on radio. The latter was industry-biased and completely ignored the October 1993 meetings of the International Joint Commission on Boundary Waters (IJC).
"Persistent toxic substances are too dangerous to the biosphere and to humans to permit their release in any quantity. . . . The idea of a non-zero ‘assimilative’ capacity in the environment or in our bodies (and hence allowable discharges) for such chemicals is no longer relevant."
This exceedingly important report was ignored by the media.
The commissioners, appointed by the United States and Canada, hold biennial meetings and have an excellent scientific staff. Considering the vast and uncountable number of persistent pollutants that are spewed into the Great Lakes, they concluded in their 1993 report that we should have a "sunsetting," namely, zero production, of persistent pollutants, for example, eliminate all chlorine-containing compounds. Quoting from their conclusions in the Seventh Biennial Report on Great Lakes Water Quality : "Persistent toxic substances are too dangerous to the biosphere and to humans to permit their release in any quantity. . . . The idea of a non-zero ‘assimilative’ capacity in the environment or in our bodies (and hence allowable discharges) for such chemicals is no longer relevant."
This exceedingly important report was ignored by the media. In 1992 Liane formed a group of citizens, called Chicago Media Watch. A number of us, including your editor, wrote to WBEZ protesting their biased and exceedingly incomplete report on the Great Lakes. Quoting a small part of Liane’s letter to WBEZ:
"‘The IJC has already reported that the Great Lakes ecosystem is in crisis, so polluted from so many sources it’s impossible to identify just where all the poisons come from.
"‘The consequences to human health and the wildlife are now being studied and the data tell us there is a human health epidemic. Organochlorines—dioxins, DDT, DDE, PCBs, CFCs, pesticides, PVCs, trichloroethylene, dibenzofurans, and some 50,000 other newly derived, untested chemical compounds are now contaminating the waters. These toxins are invisible, silent, persistent, and very destructive in minute parts per million, billion, and trillion. They bioaccumulate and are stored in the fat of wildlife and humans.
. . . the American Public Health Association has called for the phasing out of all products containing chlorine, "because of their probable link to breast cancer and other health-related problems."
"‘Women, their children, and future generations are at great risk from exposure to hundreds of these toxins. Their effects can be long-term as in breast cancer, or short-term where children born to mothers eating Great Lakes fish just twice a month are learning disabled and developmentally delayed. Men suffer from reduced sperm count, and small or undescended testicles. In fact, sperm count in men has gone down 50 percent in 50 years—an alarming fact and one we all need to know. Organochlorines bioaccumulate, affecting hormonal functions, and can wreck havoc on a number of systems from reproductive to immune.
"‘This is the kind of information WBEZ listeners need to hear, not the watered-down conversation presented on Monday. . . .’
"More than two years later, after numerous phone calls and a meeting between myself and WBEZ staff, the station has yet to air anything close to an in-depth story on the Great Lakes organochlorine connection or even interview one IJC commissioner."
Prevention of cancer
On prevention of breast cancer, Liane mentions a number of ways in which corporations can be penalized for contaminating our environment and us with carcinogens. For example, passing legislation to rescind their corporate charters after say three convictions of misconduct. Of course, at present, corporations do not have to die, as people do, although legally they enjoy many of the privileges of persons.
On prevention of breast cancer, Liane mentions a number of ways in which corporations can be penalized for contaminating our environment and us with carcinogens.
Knowledge of the carcinogens to which we are exposed will help us tremendously! In Israel, large amounts, even by world standards, of organochlorine pesticides were used and the breast cancer rates were rising even more rapidly than in other countries. Then, a public outcry arose, use of three pesticides was forbidden, and the breast cancer rate has fallen dramatically in Israel, in contrast to the rising rate in other industrialized countries. In other words, public knowledge and outcry can really make a difference.
Unfortunately, the wealthy American Cancer Society and the government-sponsored National Cancer Institute both concentrate their resources and their publicity, for example, the Breast Cancer Awareness Month, on early diagnosis and treatment, with only a minuscule amount devoted to prevention and to environmental causes, other than tobacco. On the other hand, the American Public Health Association has called for the phasing out of all products containing chlorine, "because of their probable link to breast cancer and other health-related problems." Fortunately, many women’s groups are working on education about environmental carcinogens. "The Women’s Community Cancer Project suggests that October be renamed ‘Cancer Industry Awareness Month’"
Corporations in other countries, for instance, Germany and Japan, have produced some clean goods and have found the production to be extremely profitable.
When we think of cancer prevention, we need to remember that 500 of the world’s largest corporations control a quarter of the world’s economic production. Consequently, influencing these businesses to change over to nontoxic products and safe production methods, is essential. Liane quotes Paul Hawkin, author of The Ecology of Commerce, who is optimistic about completely changing the direction of industry toward "sustainability." Liane mentions that while the United States is dragging its feet and actually reversing environmental protections, corporations in other countries, for instance, Germany and Japan, have produced some clean goods and have found the production to be extremely profitable.
NOHA Lecture by Samuel S. Epstein, MD
Liane quotes often from the many articles and presentations to governmental bodies by NOHA Speaker Samuel S. Epstein, MD, Professor of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, School of Public Health, University of Illinois Medical Center, Chicago. Last November Dr. Epstein gave us an inspiring lecture. He pointed out that the single greatest challenge to medicine today is the cancer epidemic, which now strikes one in three people and kills one in four and which is "one of the most avoidable diseases." Smoking, of course, causes cancer. However, two-thirds of cancers are caused by other manmade contaminations, which he feels is an "overwhelming and avoidable tragedy." As pointed out also by Liane, both industry and our government have avoided focusing on prevention. During the 1970s there was a little work on pollution abatement. However, at present, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is reversing the existing minimal amount of carcinogen control.
Dr. Epstein told us about many consumer products that contain undisclosed and unlabeled carcinogens—both as ingredients and contaminants. These facts are well-known to government and to industry but WE receive NO WARNINGS! For example, there are avoidable carcinogens in cosmetics. Many contain a wetting agent called DEA plus nitrites, which together form a potent carcinogen that is easily absorbed through the skin. Based on work by Dr. Epstein and others, in 1978 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) came out with a warning to the cosmetics industry about this carcinogen. Ten years later the FDA did a study of cosmetics, which showed that roughly 50 percent still contained the potent carcinogen. The German cosmetics industry has gotten rid of this carcinogen. Most lanolin, a soothing oil from sheep, is contaminated with DDT and other chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticides. Polyethylene glycol, which is common in cosmetics is contaminated with the exceedingly toxic dioxin. Other ingredients of cosmetics, which we might think were innocuous, break down into the carcinogen formaldehyde. Dr. Epstein has co-authored The Safe Shopper’s Bible, which spells out the dangers and lists safe alternatives for very many consumer products, including foods. The book was available for sale at our meeting. Our NOHA Board has voted to have it available at future NOHA meetings.
Recombinant bovine growth hormone
Dr. Epstein spoke about rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone), given to cows to increase milk production. This genetically-engineered hormone, produced by Monsanto Corporation, is different in many ways from the natural hormone. The added hormone stresses the cows. They develop mastitis (infected udders), so pus goes into their milk and they produce insulin-like growth factor1 (IGF1), which goes into their milk at 10 times the normal level and which also has a more potent growth-stimulating effect than normal because it is unbound to the milk protein. Milk from cows given rBGH also can contain truncated IGF1, which has up to 40 times more growth-stimulating effect than normal IGF1.
In 1990 unpublished tests by Monsanto on IGF1 were sent mysteriously to Dr. Epstein in a big box of FDA files. They showed that when IGF1 was tested in adult animals, even for just two weeks, "it induced very powerful growth-stimulatory effects in the liver, on bone, and on other tissues and made cells grow in an abnormal way."
Dr. Epstein sent the tests to the Committee on Government Operations. In the strongest terms, they accused the FDA and Monsanto of "withholding critical public health information from consumers and citizens."
Dr. Epstein is particularly concerned about breast cancer. In laboratory tests IGF1 causes breast cells to "take off, go wild, and multiply extremely fast." Ordinarily the udders of cows do not contain IGF1. However, when cows are treated with rBGH, their udders suddenly become laden with high concentrations of IGF1, which goes into their milk and is not broken down by homogenization. So, it appears in milk from rBGH-treated cows.
Huge amounts of pesticides are used on food. However, because of developing pest resistance all the pesticides fail in their purpose of reducing crop and livestock losses. . . . "The sad truth. . . is that all the risks associated with pesticides are unnecessary risks."
IGF1 is the link between estradiol (one of the natural estrogens) and breast cancer. Also, our bodies have something called "apotosis—programmed cell death," which prevents small, premalignant cancers from growing rapidly and becoming invasive. IGF1 stops this self-destruction of cancer cells.
In addition to chlorinated pesticides and other toxins, we can expect supermarket meat to be contaminated with sex hormones up to thirty times the normal level. Dr. Epstein recommends eating only organic meat grown with no hormones, antibiotics, nor pesticided feed. For himself, he eats fish, free-range organic chicken, and a little organic meat. He and his wife eat lots of vegetables and fruit, but again strictly organic. He pointed out the many pesticides on produce. In Staying Well in a Toxic World, which is available for sale at NOHA meetings, NOHA Member Lynn Lawson has an excellent chapter on food. Huge amounts of pesticides are used on food. However, because of developing pest resistance all the pesticides fail in their purpose of reducing crop and livestock losses. Here is one example from her book of the results of avoiding the use of all pesticides and chemical fertilizers:
Cancer Prevention Coalition
Dr. Epstein has formed the Cancer Prevention Coalition with the purpose of informing the public about "avoidable risks of cancer." The coalition issues cancer alerts, holds press conferences, gets information on TV and radio, and by networking with other organizations has sent petitions to the FDA with millions of citizen signatures.
Because we cannot rely on the government with its EPA to protect us, Dr. Epstein’s advice to NOHA members on preventing cancer is:
By acting with our purchases, we actually produce a "shift in the market place." Dr. Epstein feels strongly that market place pressure is where we will get real action on eliminating "avoidable risks of cancer."
We need "a critical mass" of people who demand the "right-to-know" of toxic exposures and who, when informed, avoid them. Demanding the "right-to-know" is eminently politically viable because what politician of any party is going to deny this fundamental right.
"The time has come for a grassroots revolution based on the fact that we have the right-to-know."
*Common Courage Press, Monroe, Maine, 1996, 341 pages, soft cover, $18.95.
Article from NOHA NEWS, Vol. XXII, No. 1, Winter 1997, pages 1-4.