Kingston, Ont. Delegates to the world conference
on breast cancer heard stories yesterday of whales with misshaped
and swollen genitalia, oysters with cancerous organs and how the
only way to win the war against breast cancer is to combat environmental
One of the most emotional pleas for attacking
environmental hazards, which are sold to account for up to 80 per
cent of breast cancer cases, came from Sandra Steingraber, a Boston
biologist who overcame her own cancer, which she said was caused
by polluted drinking water in her Illinois home town.
Every thing form power lines to X-ray machines
to chemicals in food, cleaning solvents, pesticides and herbicides
contribute to the breakdown of healthy cells, which result in mutating
and lead to cancer; told Steingraber, author of the new book Living
Downstream, which ties ecological hazards to increasing rates of
many cancers. Governments that allow companies to continue to use
toxic chemicals and make hazardous products are "committing
premeditated random murder," Steingraber told in a luncheon
speech before about 600 delegates at Queen's University.
Steingraber and other speakers said only 5 to
7 per cent of breast cancer Is the result of genetics, meaning outside
forces are causing the epidemic that annually kills one million
women worldwide. Industry, however, pegs its contribution to the
cancer problem at a much lower rate, less than 10 per cent of all
In fact, one of the most controversial claims
that electromagnetic fields contribute to childhood cancer - was
debunked In a report in this month's New England Journal of Medicine,
in the study, backed by the National Cancer Institute, 638 American
children with leukemia and 620 children in a control group were
assessed along with the magnetic-field levels (produced by everything
from hair dryers to plug-in alarm clocks) In their homes.
"The economy is dependent on chemical companies'
whose products Increase cancer risks. Biologist Sandra Steingraber.
But researchers attending the conference In this cast-em Ontario
city said other reports confirm the dangers. These types of studies,
they said, aren't taken as seriously because many scientists involved
in large-scale projects are funded by businesses In the lucrative
chemical and mining industries.
French researcher Annie Sasco also blamed traditional
medicine for contributing to cancers by overusing radiation methods
such as mammography. Traditional medicine disputes this view, saying
it's unfounded and mammography (special breast X-rays) is the best
tool for catching cancers early and saving lives.
Sasco also presented figures showing rates of
breast cancer are highest In areas where lakes are most polluted,
where there's more pollution from military fallout and where mammography
is more commonly practiced.
Debra Lee Davis of the World Resources Institute
in Washington detailed the deformities among animals in the most
polluted areas of the world, including Florida and the St. Lawrence
She urged government to more heavily tax businesses
that make potentially dangerous products than companies making environmentally
friendly products. As it is, so-called green cleaners and other
products are much more expensive than standard items. Steingraber
also urged consumers to use chemical-free green products, stick
with organic foods, drink purified water and check ingredients on
labels. Under right-to-know legislation in various parts of Canada
and the United States, consumers can also find out what toxic emissions
are being put into their community, such as from smokestacks, and
what's being dumped into rivers and landfills.
Both sides of the environmental debate will
be taken into account when conference organizers assemble a global
action plan, expected to be released in the coming months, to eradicate