How can you avoid getting cancer? As a charity we are concerned about how exposure to chemicals in consumer products and environmental pollutants might contribute to incidence of cancer and other diseases.
We stress that there are other important causes of cancer, such as smoking and diet, so anything we say about chemicals shouldn’t be interpreted as downplaying other risks – for example, if you want to reduce your risk of getting lung cancer, stopping smoking is the best place to start.
Nonetheless, there are worrying rises in incidence of a number of cancers, particularly testicular cancer and breast cancer, for which we have quite good data that everyday chemical exposure may be playing a role.
For example, chemicals that block the action of testosterone during vital periods of physical development of the foetus seem to increase the risk of the testicles not descending properly and therefore the risk of testicular cancer in the long run.
What can you do about this?
It’s difficult because as individuals we don’t have much control over pollutants in water and air, what manufacturers put in our make-up or food packaging, or any of the many other ways we are exposed to chemicals.
The science is also (relatively speaking) very new – it is only recently that we have developed the equipment to detect low levels of chemicals in the environment while there is vigorous debate about which test methods are best for determining their effects. If as a society we don’t really know which chemicals are the most harmful, as individuals we have no chance of keeping track of everything which might be problematic.
All this means that even if we did manage to alter our exposures to some chemicals (such as phthalates from shower curtains or BPA from canned food), the overall mass of the remaining combined exposures along with lack of information about potential harm means all that effort might not reduce our risk of cancer very much at all.
It’s up to the regulators
It is therefore incumbent on the regulators to make sure that chemicals are properly tested for safety before they are introduced to market. By and large, this hasn’t happened, which is why we are exposed to so many substances about which we know so very little.
Because this regulatory action is decided by the EU, it is very important that people talk to their MEPs – they are much more important than a lot of people think, and they are obliged to respond to your concerns. So if you are worried about chemicals and health, write to them and tell them to support proper chemical regulation.
If you don’t know who your MEP is you can find out here: http://www.writetothem.com/