|Senate Bill to Honor Rachel Carson is
Blocked by Chemical Industry Interests
Tom Coburn Calls Rachel Carson's Work "Junk Science"
Memorial Day May 29 2007
Rachel Carson, a marine biologist and a longtime resident of Silver Spring MD would have turned 100 years this Sunday if she had not died of breast cancer in 1964. Her landmark book, "Silent Spring", is credited with spurring the formation of the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) in 1970 and the banning of DDT in 1972 (in the US). (1) (2) (3) (4)
Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.) had intended to submit a senate resolution celebrating the lifetime achievements of Rachel Carson. (5)
Unfortunately, the proposed bill was effectively blocked by Republican Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn, M.D., in a move seeming to represent the interests of the chemical and pesticide industry. Senator Tom Coburn commented that DDT was important for malaria control. How much malaria have you seen in the US lately, Tom? Let me answer that for you; very little. Malaria has been eradicated in the US since the 1950's. Of the 1,337 malaria cases reported for 2002 in the United States, all but five were imported, i.e., acquired in malaria-endemic countries outside the US. There were 8 reported deaths from malaria in the US in 2002. (6)
Breast cancer mortality here in the US is 5 THOUSAND times greater than malaria mortality. 178,480 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 40,460 women will die of cancer of the breast in 2007 in the US. (7 ) (8 )
The Breast Cancer-Pesticide Link
The pesticide-breast cancer link was clearly shown in research from Israel which linked three pesticides found in dairy products to increased cancer in mice. After a public outcry in 1978, the Israeli government was forced to ban the three pesticides,
Benzene Hexachloride, DDT, and Lindane .
After the banning of these pesticides in Israel, breast cancer mortality rates (which had increased every year for 25 years), dropped nearly 8 per cent for all age groups and dropped more than a thirty-three percent for women ages 25-34 in 1986. (9) (10)
Why would Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. make the serious mistake of calling Rachel Carson's work "junk science"? It's my guess that Senator Tom Coburn never learned about the pesticide-breast cancer connection in medical school, or perhaps he unwittingly expressed the sentiment of the pesticide/chemical industry which tends to malign environmentalists such as Rachel Carson.
Since her death from breast cancer in 1964, Rachel Carson has come to be celebrated as a hero by environmentalists. The title “Silent Spring” refers to the sad absence of songbirds in springtime because they die from eating insects containing toxic amounts of DDT and other pesticides.
Pesticides sprayed on our food supply move right up the food chain to us humans where they build up in the tissues of the body causing hormonal disruption, toxic effects on the nervous system and increased cancer risk. As you might guess, this is a lengthy topic. Suffice it to say that that the chemical structure of DDT is very similar to DES (Diethylstilbestrol), a synthetic estrogen which was banned because it causes cervical cancer in the daughters of women given DES during pregnancy. (11) (12) (12a) (13)
DDT was banned in 1964, and DES was banned in 1971. The Silent Spring Institute continues the legacy of Rachel Carson, and has focused on chemicals in the environment which cause breast cancer as hormonal disruptors. (14)
Thanks to efforts made by Rachel Carson, the Silent Spring Institute, and others, the EPA has banned the following endocrine disruptor chemicals:
PCBs, chlordane, DDT, aldrin, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, kepone, toxaphene, and 2,4,5-T . (15)
Rachel Carson’s work reminds us to avoid these toxic chemicals and hormone disruptors. By doing so, we may reduce the risk of breast cancer and a host of other health problems. Other scientists such as Theo Colborn have continued Rachel Carson line of investigation with the book, “Our Stolen Future” which describes in detailed scientific terms the effect of endocrine disruptor chemicals on the developing fetus of animals in the wild as well as in us humans. (16) (17) (18) One example from Theo Colborn's book describes reproductive failure in Florida Alligators attributed to DDT and other pesticides dumped into the Everglades. The Pesticides were detected in the alligator egg shells. (19) (20)
Ten Ways to Reduce Your Exposure to Chemicals and Decrease Cancer Risk (19)
1. Use glass containers in the microwave and encourage your family/friends to do the same. Some plastic containers contain hormone disruptor chemicals that can leach into food when they are heated.
2. Ask for dry cleaning services that do not use “PERC” or ask for “wet cleaning.” The familiar smell of dry cleaning comes from residues of perchloroethylene (PERC) which are under study for breast cancer and are associated with other cancers.
3. Pthalates: Take time to read labels and avoid “phthalates” and “fragrance” in products. Phthalates are endocrine disrupting compounds that have been associated with cancer, impaired fertility, and male birth defects. They are found in hundreds of products including shampoo, lotion, perfume, cosmetics, vinyl and plastics, including toys. They are now being monitored by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The most common phthalates are: dibutyl phthalate (DBP), diethyl phthalate (DEP), and diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP), and phthalates are often an ingredient in “fragrance.” Look for labels that say “phthalate-free” and ask for products that are phthalate-free.
4. When grilling foods, minimize “char” by reducing the heat level and/or using marinades. “ Char” contains PAHs – polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons – that are known to cause mammary tumors in animals.
5. Purchase organic foods when possible to reduce your exposure to pesticides and protect your family. Many pesticides are endocrine disruptors. Pesticides are also known to affect brain development and neurological function.
6. Monitor what goes down the drain in your home. Never put cleaning solvents, pesticides, paint thinners, automobile oil, or gas down a drain.
7. Remember that all vacuum cleaners are not created equal. Carpets can harbor pesticides, mold and allergens, flame retardants, and other chemicals. Vacuums with strong suction, a brush on/off switch, a multi-layered bag for dust collection, and a HEPA filter are considered the best to avoid recycling dust back into the air.
8. Look for electronic equipment and furniture without PBDEs.
PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) are commercially produced flame retardants that are often added to polyurethane foam, various plastics, and electronics equipment. They are endocrine disruptors that affect thyroid hormones.
9. Use organic practices for gardening/lawn care, and encourage neighbors to do the same. Pesticides and herbicides used on gardens and lawns are tracked into the house on shoes and by pets. Children and pets that play on the lawn are exposed, and the chemicals can leach into waterways and drinking water wells.
10. Encourage your town to adopt policies of using natural/non-toxic solvents in public buildings, especially schools, and using organic practices in the care of green spaces. Using safer cleaners and eliminating pesticides on a town-wide basis will reduce exposure to compounds that mimic estrogen or otherwise disrupt hormones.
Our Breast Cancer Prevention Program:
Of course, the essential mineral Iodine is the essential ingredient of our breast cancer prevention program discussed in a previous newsletter. (20)
In addition to Iodine, I3C (Indole-3 carbinol) and DIM (Di-Indole Methane) are broccoli extracts which are over the counter nutritional supplements which have been carefully studied and shown to have a beneficial effect on human estrogen metabolism. (21) (22) (23) (24) (25)
Without boring you with the biochemistry, suffice it to say that the the breakdown and elimination of estrogen by the liver is beneficially diverted towards the 16 hydroxy pathway to estriol and away from the 2 hydroxy pathway which requires a methylation reaction. The net result is a decrease in breast cancer risk with the use of DIM.
Articles with Related Interest
Rachel Carson, Great Women in Medicine
PCOS Caused by BPA Environmental Exposure
Risk Factors for Breast Cancer
Jeffrey Dach MD
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Davie, FL 33314
Jeffrey Dach MD
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