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Not long ago, tobacco smoke was everywhere, our understanding of the dangers of smoking was limited, and smoking was even encouraged. Today, thanks to tobacco prevention and control programs, lung cancer incidence rates have gone down as a result of fewer people smoking.  We can further lower rates of  these and other cancers by reducing our exposure to toxic chemicals in our daily lives and by reducing the cumulative impact of multiple exposures over our lifetime. 


Hazardous chemicals are ubiquitous in our homes, schools, workplaces, and in the air, water, food, and the products we use every day. Many of us assume that environmental and chemical safety laws exist to protect us from these harmful substances. Unfortunately that is not the case. There are thousands of chemicals on the market, the vast majority of which have never been tested for safety. Many of them are carcinogens or have been linked with cancer.

Chemicals and Cancer

The International Agency for Research on Cancer has identified hundreds of chemicals that contribute to cancer, and the list is growing.

For breast cancer alone, more than 200 chemicals have been associated with mammary gland tumors in animal studies, and about half of these are chemicals that women are routinely exposed to in their everyday lives.

Air pollutants has been shown to increase the risk of lung, bladder, liver, breast and other tumor types.

Chemicals, including the now-familiar PFAS used in a variety of products, including non-stick cookware, stain resistant and waterproof fabrics, and food packaging have been associated with testicular and kidney cancers.

Organic solvents such as benzene are potent carcinogens, causing leukemia, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and multiple myeloma.

The use of pesticides in agriculture, on playing fields at school, and at home in the yard, has been associated with an increased risk of childhood cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma.

Formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen, yet companies continue to use it in building materials, textile finishes, nail polishes, and even hair products.

Widely-used flame retardants in consumer products have been linked with cancer, as well as hormone disruption, and neurotoxicity.

While we work on a cure for cancer, we need to act on the knowledge we have now to protect ourselves, our families, and communities from dangerous chemicals. We need to invest in greener chemistry and technologies that can sustain us and the planet, and stop the use and production of chemicals that cause harm.


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