May 6th, 2010
12:01 AM ET

Presidential panel: Cancer risks underestimated

By David S. Martin
CNN Medical Senior Producer

Exposure to potential cancer risks in daily life is widespread but underestimated, especially for children, a presidential panel said today.

The President’s Cancer Panel said the public remains by and large unaware of such common cancer risks as formaldehyde, benzene and radon. It’s the first time the group has focused on environmental cancer risks in its annual report to the president.

“The mere fact that the President’s Cancer Panel has this report is going to make people more aware,” said panel chair Dr. Lasalle Leffall Jr., an oncologist and professor of surgery at Howard University College of Medicine.

The panel also recommends reducing environmental cancer risks a cornerstone of cancer prevention efforts and said doctors need to do a better job considering potentially harmful chemical exposures when diagnosing patients.

The report also faults U.S. policy for allowing most of the 80,000 chemicals in use to go largely unstudied and unregulated. For example, the report says, bisphenol A (BPA) remains unregulated in consumer products such as plastic bottles, can liners and food wrap “despite the growing link between BPA and several diseases, including various cancers.”

Risks of environmental exposure are especially acute for children, who weigh less but – pound for pound - take in more food, water and air than adults. Toxic chemicals also remain active longer in children’s bodies and their developing brains are more prone to chemical exposure.

Leffall said the panel decided to publish the report on environmental cancer risks this year even in absence of proof that particular exposures cause cancer. Case in point: Cell phones. Leffall said even though science has not shown electromagnetic energy from cell phone use causes cancer, the report takes a cautious approach and recommends callers wear headsets, or text, to reduce exposure.

To lessen cancer risks, the 240-page report also recommends:

* Removing shoes before entering the home to avoid tracking in toxic chemicals such as pesticides.

* Filtering tap water.

* Using stainless steel, glass or BPA-free plastic water bottles.

* Microwaving in ceramic or glass instead of plastic containers.

* Minimizing consumption of food grown with pesticides and meat raised with antibiotics and growth hormone.

* Minimizing consumption of processed, charred or well-done meats, which contain carcinogenic heterocyclic amines and polyaromatic hydrocarbons.

* Reducing radiation from X-rays and other medical sources.

The report singled out three chemicals as dangerous: formaldehyde, benzene and radon.

Almost all homes contain formaldehyde, considered a probable human carcinogen by the Environmental Protection Agency. Formaldehyde is used in plywood, particle board, foam insulation, carpet and draperies, furniture, permanent press fabrics and toiletries. Exposure is highest when these are newly installed, the report said. Also, an estimated 2 million Americans are exposed to formaldehyde at work, raising their risk of dying from Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other cancers, according to the report.

Exposure to benzene is also widespread. Exhaust from cars and other vehicles contain benzene, listed as a known human carcinogen by the EPA.

Radon, which forms naturally and can collect in homes, is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, behind smoking, resulting in an estimated 21,000 deaths annually, according to the report. The report recommends periodically checking the radon levels at home.

The President’s Cancer Panel was created in 1971. Serving with Lefall is Margaret L. Kripke of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. The panel’s third member has not been appointed.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.

Filed under: Cancer • Toxic America

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soundoff (198 Responses)
  1. Cancerpssh

    What doesn't cause cancer is the real question here right? Cancer is what keeps the human race from overpopulation, its so awesome how we put so much effort into the thing that will keep us from our own demise.

    May 6, 2010 at 13:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Jason

    I am a three time cancer survivor. I was first diagnosed with cancer at age 16. I relapsed twice since then. After a bone marrow transplant accompanied by intense chemo and radiation I can say that I am thankful to survive. I would not wish my experiences on anyone, and I do not appreciate the sarcasm. Just because some one is a democrat or a republican does not mean they are not human. It is true that we all die of something, but why not make the most out of life and try to live a long happy life. I am proud to say I just turned 30 and I am cancer free.

    May 6, 2010 at 13:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. v

    Starbuck are you KIDDING ME? The point they are making here is that all those things in EXCESS are doing damage. Of course formaldehyde is produced naturally, but when your body takes in more than it should it causes problems. What they are saying is....all these chemicals being added to everyday things in our life is doing us harm because we are taking in more than our bodies can breakdown. These chemicals they use are NOT needed. Are you that dense that you can't see THAT??? Why don't you go sit inside a formaldehyde soaked FEMA trailer for a while and see how this 'naturally' produced chemical reacts with your body.

    May 6, 2010 at 13:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. science

    Starbuck – Uranium exists in nature as well, but you certainly don't want it in your home; and the levels of formaldehyde produced by the body are negligible compared to the levels which accumulate in a new construction. Your body expels formaldehyde as a by-product... BECAUSE it isn't good for you. You also produce carbon dioxide, but try living a room filled with that!

    We ARE overrun with warnings about this and that, but your comments are foolish at best.

    May 6, 2010 at 13:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. jmnikricket

    People weren't meant to live forever. The better humans get at fighting off natural diseases, the more likely it is that chronic exposure to toxins will be the cause of death. Stop worrying about not dying, and just start living!

    May 6, 2010 at 13:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Chad

    Strange. Most risks are from exposure to unnatural things (pesticides, drinking from plastics, antiobiotics in meat. Could it be that the human body evolved to live in nature not a man-made artificial world??? That's crazy talk!

    May 6, 2010 at 13:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. BAM

    Because of H1N1 my daughters have to wipe down their desks twice a day with Clorox and/or Lysol wipes. Even though the directions say to not handle directly or wash hands afterwards, they don't do that. I complained and received no response. This just goes to show that even the educational system cannot be educated. Yesterday I read an article on the Susan G. Komen site about them not being able to determine the impact of BPAs or parabens because of the other influences in the body from other chemicals. How will these chemicals be isolated? Can they be isolated? I agree with what Aleksandr Belov said earlier and expand on it by saying that because everyone has a different set of allergies, different chemicals might cause a different reaction in each person. I don't want to live in a bubble, but I do think we can be safer.

    May 6, 2010 at 13:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Schwilson

    Are there really THAT many more diseases/cancers or do we just have better technology to detect them? With all of the carcinogens floating around, can you do anything to avoid them short of living in a bubble? And don't forget, burnt marshmallows also are carcinogens...

    May 6, 2010 at 13:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Mr. Write

    Starbuck...umm...wow. It is not a by-product of exhalation. Also, crude oil is a 'natural compound" I suppose we should drink it. Tigers are natural, are they also not dangerous. I think we can also see who the "idiot" is here...obviously the scientists.

    May 6, 2010 at 13:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. chuckster

    My greatest disappointment with this situation is the fact that we in this world have given TRILLIONS to the National Cancer Society for over 50 years and they have not found a cure for squat!!!! All that money to those researchers with hardly any results. Man I want a job like that where I am paid a ton of money to look good for the cure but, no results required. Isn't that just like America????? Maybe they know if they find a cure, their paycheck goes away????

    May 6, 2010 at 13:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Rena

    Starbuck – "Are these doctors so dumb that they don't realize that formaldehyde is a natural emission of people when they breathe."

    there'e a huge difference between "natual" and "man made".

    Example: Estrogen is a hormone our bodies produce. but when we take the "man made" form of estrogen – it effects us a lot different then what our bodies produce.

    May 6, 2010 at 13:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Starwyze

    The increasing number of hospitals dedicated to the treatment of childhood cancer should tell lust something, as should the number of centenarians who lived in a cleaner world. We can study this subject forever and keep killing our children and ourselves, or we can be "professional gamblers" and play the odds in our favor.

    May 6, 2010 at 13:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Mathew

    So I can die from all the things that I like in life, or from the stress of worrying about everything. I think i'll choose the first option, at least I'll be happy until I am dead!

    May 6, 2010 at 13:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Citizen

    Go back to minding your own business and treating cows.

    May 6, 2010 at 13:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. BobH

    The panel's recommendations are cautious, but prudent. They suggest reducing exposure to chemicals, both natural and synthetic, that may significantly increase the risk of cancer. They don't say go hide in the woods.

    The comments left by many readers are astounding in their ignorance. They provide convincing evidence that we need to take all steps necessary to improve science education in the US.

    May 6, 2010 at 14:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Rick McDaniel

    Maybe what is needed......is to remove many of these dangers from the environment, in the first place?????

    Humans are destroying themselves, at an accelerating rate.

    May 6, 2010 at 14:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. JMcTigue

    I'm surprised they didn't mention anything about water contaminiated from fracting oil out of shale rock near ground water tables used for drinking by humans and live stock.

    May 6, 2010 at 14:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. well, duh

    doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure this out...and they're not looking for a cure either, too much big money in cancer baby!

    May 6, 2010 at 14:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. NHLsurvivor

    Even with these insights, even if you cook out of glassware, even if you filter your water and live in a formaldehyde-free hut wolven from organic hemp, there is a 100% chance you will die (most likely of cancer)....Sorry.

    May 6, 2010 at 14:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Andrew

    Starbuck may have a name that sounds like coffee but I'll bet he's more of a tea partier, where they wear ignorance like a badge of honor. That's right, what do scientific experts know about chemicals, climate change, etc.? Let's take advice from these Palin "Joe Sixpacks" instead.

    May 6, 2010 at 14:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. An ACTUAL doctor

    Hey everybody! A real doctor would like to weigh in on the debate at hand. Personally, I found this article to be spot on. It was informative and accurate. This is in stark contrast to the pseudo-scientists posting their poorly contrived theories in recent comments. First of all, why would you get defensive and submit a rebuttal on a subject where you are so staggeringly out-studied? Seriously...somebody on here actually thinks we exhale formaldehyde and radon at cancer-provoking levels?? And that it can't possibly be the concentrated forms of these known carcinogens in sythetic materials that requires our concern?? Look, part of me wants to rip half of you a new one, but I'll just leave it at this: the point of this article is to provide you with the findings of learned physicians who performed actual research to provide you with guidelines to try to help you stay cancer free. If somehow that offends you or you want to believe you have it all figured out on your own already....then don't heed the advice. nobody is holding a gun to your head. so shut up......and I'll see you and your lung cancer in the hospital in...let's say.....20 years or so.

    May 6, 2010 at 14:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Raquel

    When is the gov't going to recognize how dangerous cell phones, wi fi and all other electro pollutants are to all of us. The mayor of San Francisco and a representative from Maine are trying to put on the package of cell phones a warning. Google Larry King and the show he had on cell phones and brain cancer.

    May 6, 2010 at 14:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. kary

    The benzene issue has been mentioned, but it is more convenient to the consumer than most are aware. Buy a cup of coffee at your deli and he serves it in a nice styrofoam cup which oozes benzene upon contact with hot foods. My husband was in the chemical industry for 25 years and has always refused styrofoam dishes or containers when they are offered with food, because he knew the impact of what was being released internally. Armed with that knowledge, we always refuse styrofoam, however we are constantly made fun of for this action. I do understand in some areas styrofoam is now banned, but there is still plenty of it around . In all these issues here is plenty of blame to go around , from the manufacturers to the retailers to the service industries and not least to the consumer who doesn't change behavior when they have the knowledge and forewarning to do so.

    May 6, 2010 at 14:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. David Fish

    People have to understand that dangerous chemicals do exist in nature but man has found ways to avoid them. For example, the uranium rich site in Australia was (and is) taboo to the native Aborigines. (Was it because that they found people who lived there died prematurely?)

    Likewise, life evolved without car exhaust (containing benzene), drapes (containing formaldehyde), plastic bottles (contining (BPA) and our bodies didn't evolve to make us resistant to these chemicals. So yes, we may have to very careful what expose ourselves to. We can live a full life, but without a few things!

    May 6, 2010 at 14:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Brandon

    My god, the amount of tin foil hats in this thread is astounding.

    May 6, 2010 at 14:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. YummyDrFood

    From the article:

    "Leffall said the panel decided to publish the report on environmental cancer risks this year even in absence of proof that particular exposures cause cancer. Case in point: Cell phones. Leffall said even though science has not shown electromagnetic energy from cell phone use causes cancer, the report takes a cautious approach and recommends callers wear headsets, or text, to reduce exposure."

    Dr. Leffall admits that recommendations were published in the report without scientific evidence backing the claims. This calls into question pretty much the entire report, in my honest opinion. Now this report just sounds like a scare tactic used to garner attention and/or funding.

    May 6, 2010 at 14:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Marlene

    Wake up people! It is all true and you better worry about it and make a fuss about it. Why are children maturing sooner then ever? The hormones given to animals...that is why. I know of a doctor that told a friend of mine to only buy organic foods as her 5 year old girl was showing signs of pruberty.
    The health risk is great from BPA

    May 6, 2010 at 15:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. MedStudentamure@escambiafire.com

    This is something that has been known for a long time–environmental AND man made carcinogens that have been accumulating as population density increases in certain areas. What people need to understand is that RISK is increased, not incidence of cancer. Cancer RISK is not the same as cancer RATE and therefore producing these reports allows people to make decisions based on their comfort level with carcinogens–sort of like the stock market and the risk you're willing to accept. It's a good biostatistical way of warning people of what they're being exposed to, and while it may scare some people, does not mean that all sources of these carcinogens need to be removed, but perhaps closely monitored and reduced.

    May 6, 2010 at 15:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Paul Ronco

    I see there's a lot of hostility towards scientists on this thread. Then again, that's pretty typical of Americans, who have become so hopeless of changing their lives for the better in the face of this corporate government that they'd rather be encouraged to bury their heads in the sand than do anything about it; for example, require their government to impose and then enforce industry safety regulations.

    May 6, 2010 at 15:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. mom of hodgkins survivor

    They said "exposed to formaldehyde at work, raising their risk of dying from Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other cancers." Formaldehyde is not even listed as a risk factor. They don't know what causes Hodgkins other than in most cases the person has had Epstein barr or mono. It is a viral cancer. You've got to love it when the presendential panel cannot get the facts correct.

    May 6, 2010 at 15:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Mike Perry

    If any one has any doubt about this report, I suggest that you simply look at a U.S. county map of "Age-adjusted Rate of Deaths Caused by Cancer" over any time period. You will notice a definite pattern with higher death rates surrounding the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers and along the eastern seaboard. If environmental toxins did not play a major role in cancer deaths, you would not see this kind of geographic pattern.

    To generate a map for yourself go to to the CDC WONDER web site (http://wonder.cdc.gov), access the "Compressed Mortality Data 1999-2006" and generate a report – Group Results by "County" for Cause of Death "C00-D48 (Neoplasms)" select "Standard Age-adjusted Rates" per 100,000 population and click SEND. After the table report is returned, click the "Map" tab. You will need to increase the size of the map by scrolling down and increasing "Height in pixels" from 250 to about 700 or more. You can generate a map for specific cancers if you want or for any cause of death.

    May 6, 2010 at 15:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Ralph

    Starbuck, let's try out your logic on another type of health issue: Firearm cartridges occur on shelves and in drawers and in such state do not harm people, so I guess if you were in charge we might all be at war with everyone at all times because, after all, in a certain state or circumstance, firearm cartridges harm no one, so in all states or circumstances they must harm no one. Armed with such logic, one would have been an excellent recruit for the Boxer Rebels in China at the turn of the 19th century. Good luck.

    May 6, 2010 at 15:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Nicole

    All of you should know, that these dangerous chemicals not only cause cancer, but they are also proven to cause AUTISM!!!! I just went to a conference that was led by a Pediatric Neurologist from MASS. GENERAL who has been doing research on these chemicals and the skyrocketing rate of autism. I was absoultely sick to my stomach. I am 29 years old, my mother is 49 and has breast cancer, my father just died from brain cancer at 51, and my 5 year old son has severe autism. What the hell is the point anyway? This makes me sick. We are all killing ourselves.
    Autism rates in 1980 were 1 in 10,000, now they are 1 in 110. This is a public health crisis!

    May 6, 2010 at 16:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Pam

    The panel is made up of two (and later three) people. Sounds like a vacuum to me.

    May 6, 2010 at 16:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. DD gofigure

    A visit by an executive from the L.A. Environnmental Agency a few years back answered my question: "What do you think of our L.A. smog problem?" He responded, "It's not the smog/air in this city that worries us; it's all the things that BLEACH is used for!" Think about it: everything that's white, for example, and that includes sugar, paper goods, drinking water and bath water (kid's baths too), swimming pool water and the added chemicals that clean pools and pity the poor pool worker who has to breath this stuff too. Breads, cookies, cakes, etc., commercially baked w/o unbleached flour, candy of all kinds: what does See's Candy use, and Hershey, Nestles, and all other candy companies. I'm sure there are other bleached entities, but I'm getting nauseated thinking about those other beauty and body products we use daily!

    May 6, 2010 at 16:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Mark

    Okay...for everyone who doesn't believe the presidential panel...please go crawl back under a rock and keep hiding from the truth. I'm a chemist. I actually analyze environmental samples (soil, drinking water, air, etc.) on a daily basis. There should be a whole lot of concern out there about these things. For instance, 1 in 8 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. You can't argue with statistics. It's a simple fact. For those who think "who cares?", just put it in perspective. On 9/11, thousands of people were killed in a terrorist attack. We are spending billions fighting those terrorists to ensure it doesn't happen again. Thousands upon thousands of people in the U.S. die of some form of cancer each year...yet most of us are indifferent or ignorant to the facts. The kinds of chemicals that Joe Schmoe is allowed to use without any training is astounding. I was in Home Depot last year trying to figure out how to kill some ants in my lawn. Every product I looked at stated that it was "extremely toxic to aquatic organisms". Yet any idiot can buy it and dump it all over their lawn and watch it run off into a river, lake, etc. I'm glad these things are regulated so well. Scary.

    May 6, 2010 at 16:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Cliff

    It is easy to jump to conclusions about reports, especially when a doctor and or/doctors put their John Henry on the line.

    I am now alive close to five years after the "doctors" told my wife I had six months.
    The comment about "smoking" can be taken however you wish.
    My cancer surgeon said, "I do as many surgeries (of this type) on non-smokers as well as smokers.

    I was healthy and no cancer in my family history at all! Never!!!

    My own conclusion is...you may or may not get cancer and I don't buy in to all the "reports" about eating this or not microwaving in that.

    If we believe everything put out by the government, panels, experts (remember, an expert is a little spurt..away from home) and "noted authorities" we would never walk outside our door.

    I am still alive and thank God for my life!

    May 6, 2010 at 16:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. bobby

    I know just a few will read this. But, the USA allows more food additives than any other country. Might this have some effect on the USA cancer rate? We won't even invstigate, and if we did it would just be discounted because we breathe formaldahyde therefore it is natural. Cyanide is natural too. Should we allow these things in our food? It's the additives, people ! We already know the relationship between autism and vaccinations. We know that MSG causes brain lesions and is particularly harmful to neonatal children. We know that all the calcium carbonate being crammed in our food causes soft tissue cancer (of which my mother died) and has been linked with MS. Polyethelene Glycol? Isn't that antifreeze? Aspartame...NEVER was approved by the FDA but is all over the place thanks to Donald Rumsfeld and Ronald Regan. And on and on and on...and we say we don't know what causes cancer and many other problems? No, no, no, when we are ready to stop pretending we WILL solve the problem....Ready???

    May 6, 2010 at 16:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Blair

    It's good they are getting the word out. All the negative comments here obviously hasn't had cancer or had to be somebody's rock while going through cancer. My wife was diagnosed with lymphoma around Christamas and we are in the middle of one heck of a battle now. Maybe, if all these negative people here had to sit in an infusion room and see all of the different people there from all forms of life with no ryme or reason of why they have it or who has it, they may have a different opinion on these types of articles. From what I've seen lately, everyone there just wants to NOT have cancer and all seem to just want to go back to normal to the way they used to live. To actually see what these people from the patients, to the nurses, to the doctors on what they have to deal with on a daily basis. What a tramatizing life and family shattering experience out of the clear blue for evryone involved. From our perspective here, any information is good information...... This ordeal has really opened my eyes and all you negative, nieve people out there ought to at least try to somewhat imagine this as best as your little closed minds can.................

    May 6, 2010 at 16:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. wise consumer

    There is a lot of conflicting information, obviously. Since there are no absolute, conclusive answers, it makes sense to err on the side of caution. Thus, make as many purchases of consumer goods as free of toxins as possible. Shop at health food stores, green stores, etc. Ask questions about what's in products — and if you don't like the answers, tell them why. Vote with your wallets! Only when and if corporate profits drop because consumers demand toxin-free products will things change.

    May 6, 2010 at 16:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Michael

    Babies should NOT be fed baby food out of plastic baby food jars. Mothers should ask who approved these containers? Possibly millions of molecules of chemicals can leach from the plastic into the baby food. Glass jars are much better.

    May 6, 2010 at 16:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Beau Ryder

    I love how what will fix the problem is listed so matter of fact. Whether it's things we use or what we eat or drink, it needs to be delt with. Clearly they do not shop in the same grocery store I do. Or, they just make an insane amount of money. Just eating good things in today's world is next to impossible. I'm single and just feeding myself and it's still expensive. The simple truth is that the people that are typically referred to as being in charge (I use this term because I think they are a joke and only hurt themselves) are out of touch and willingly or unwillingly contributing to a faulty system. While, at the same time everyone else is brainwashed into believing that what they are eating or drinking isn't that dangerous. Drug companies are insanely rich. They contribute to politics, schools, news, tons of things that could (if we let them) have an influence in our lives. Doctors push pills (because they were educated in a university funded by drug companies) which, lots of times makes you more sick, which means you need more drugs. These drugs never address the root cause. Rather, they just bandaid the symptom. It's like going after every bee in a park or just going an eliminating the hive first. The world would have us believe that the only way is to get every bee independently. Listen to the drug commercials sometime. Something that gives suicidal thoughts; and people take this. I don't know who is more out of touch, the pushers or the people that take this crap. Give it enough time and a soar throat will be labeled a disease, just so they can medicate it exclusively to make cash. This doesn't happen right away either. It is many years of systematically, whether by human nature or purposely, taking power from other people by media influence or any other source of what in today's world is called control. How this is done typically is through the spread of fear. And, really people rarely want to hurt other people. It just has always been this way and change is never looked upon easily so it just keeps getting swept under the rug. Educate yourselves. Realize the stress that is present. Understand that that stress causes fear in people. Realize that it is subtle. Then, your eyes will start to open and you will see that everything in this world is rigged to have us believe that we are seperate entities. Praying about this helps a great deal too. We are not separate, non of us. We are all one and we are all connected to each other. When we start caring about love and about these kind of things, what is false in life will cease.

    May 6, 2010 at 17:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Gregory

    Formaldehyde is a horrible chemical and it surrounds us in everything from particle board and carpeting to wrinkle free cotton shirts we wear against our skin. Anyone saying formaldehyde is a natural substance and nothing to worry about it is a complete dunce. Sure maybe it's an organic compound but the concentrations we are being exposed to in manufactured products far exceed any naturally existing concentration. Asbestos is a natural substance too, that doesn't mean we should be rubbing it on our skin and breathing it.

    As far as cancer, one of the biggest causes of cancer is something known as chronic inflammation. As someone who is allergic to formaldehyde, I can tell you that when exposed to wrinkle free cotton I get a severe skin inflammation. Cigarrette smoke also contains formaldehyde and exposure to cigarrette smoke can also cause an inflammatory skin response. Maybe most people aren't as acutely allergic to formaldehyde as I am, but it is a toxic substance to everyone and allergic reactions are more common than most people realize. Chronic exposure to this substance could easily cause a sustained inflammation, not necessarily so acute that you would notice, but severe enough to lead to cancer over the course of many years.

    As far as BPA goes, that stuff is really scary. It basically simulates female hormones in the human body. As a man I try to limit exposure as much as I possibly can. Female hormone exposure can cause female secondary sex characteristics like gynecomastia (male breasts) and yes cancer too. Just imagine what effect this substance could have on the endocrine system of a developing child.

    People need to wake up and take precautions against exposure to these substances. Chemical manufacturers are not in the business of protecting your health, they are in the business of making money. Many of these substances have not been adequately tested and their long term effects are largely unknown. The last 100 years have basically been one enormous science experiement with humans as the guinea pigs. Hopefully these substances will become more regulated and restricted over time as we learn more about their harmful effects, but in the meantime we all need to be proactive in learning what we can in order to protect ourselves and our families.

    May 6, 2010 at 17:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Holly LeGros

    I'm amazed that people would rather NOT know what causes cancer & prefer it to be bad luck, fate or the unknown. To be armed with information about what chemicals can over time start the cancer process in those susceptible is a win-win. You have more power than you think if you read up and learn about safer air quality, drinking water, personal hygiene/grooming products, foods, building materials, cleaning chemicals etc..because you can reduce your exposures over time with various changes. Yes you can test your home for mold (an awful immune suppressor), radon, formeldahyde, VOC's and then you can put cleaner, better foods into your body. Doctors don't have the time or knowledge to investigate toxins your home environment, diet, workplace, but you can. Armed with knowledge we get some power back.
    People who seem angry or make fun and/or dismiss the panel's findings are frightened because it is overwhelming to battle the world. Or people may not be willing to make any changes to protect themselves. You just have to make your personal and work world (the air especiallt) safer and contact your congressman, vote for those desiring protective and safety laws and become more active toward the changes needed around car emissions, toxic building products, poisoning pesticides on land and in food, mold/water damage and other indoor contaminants. And, of course, stop the smoking. Ignorance is bliss for some. I see that as fear & laziness, but to each there own.

    May 6, 2010 at 17:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Saxo Grammaticus

    Starbuck, the fact that something exists naturally isn't much of a guarantee that it's good for us. Arsenic comes to mind.

    But you seem angrier than a person would be over a purely scientific debate. Is your paycheck connected to a business that uses/produces/emits one or more of the three substances specifically mentioned here?

    May 6, 2010 at 17:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Carol

    There is a section of the CDC called the ATSDR – it is a disease registry that collects data and issues reports on Toxic Substances and Diseases....it receives money for these studies from Congress. It has been using taxpayer dollars for many years but has come up with practically nothing to show for all the money it wastes. I know, I am a registrant. They hire stupid people to ask stupid questions to ignorant people who have been exposed to fatal toxins and don't have a clue what is going on. Then they proceed to tell these ignorant people that all is well, when it is not. OSHA has known for years that Benzene is a level I carcinogin, yet these stupid people at the ATSDR have told over 1400 people on my registry that there is no reason they should worry about benzene in their water supply for 20+ years. Texas is oil country, and oil money talks, so these "registrants" (people) continue to live on top of this disaster and wonder why they and their children are ill all the time, their neighbors are dying and their pets have cancer. Me and my family moved after the judges deemed the oil and gas industry was not responsible based on the ATSDR's findings....they didn't believe our doctors, they didn't believe our medical records and they didn't believe OSHA, they believed these political hacks that did a paper study....these same people who donate money to the election campaigns of these same judges won out over the ill and dying (some are dead)homeowners!
    Yes we eat organic and filter all our water and air and we have cancers...so go figure who is pulling the strings in this country.

    May 6, 2010 at 17:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Charlotte Gogola

    I confess that I stopped reading comments about a third of the way down. Personally I had ancestors who lived into their 100s centuries ago; I've researched them on ancestry.com. My parents are in their 80s and going strong. However, I do filter my water and I did quit smoking and get my alcoholism treated and I have started buying hormone-free meat and milk for my child. One of the advantages of living in a developed country with a high standard of living is that we do have choices. Arguing and putting one another down does not help. I suggest that we feel gratitude whenever our government decides to pull back the covers from Big Business and give us a counter story to debate (intelligently and impersonally), even if some of their help is misdirected. This is how we all get smarter. I also suggest that we follow our own instincts about which, if any, environmental toxins to avoid. That we find out our families' medical histories to assess our vulnerabilities. And that we keep reading, because new info comes out all the time. Best wishes to you all (and thanks, CNN, for the article.)

    May 6, 2010 at 18:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Matt

    Starbuck-something tells me you haven't taken too many science classes in your life. You're right....alot of this is overblown. However, much is true. Did you realize that Americans have rates of colon cancer several times greater than east Asians? Why?– Well, because of our high consumption of meat, particularly overcooked, charred meat.....

    May 6, 2010 at 18:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Matt

    And yes, there's still a decent chance you will die of cancer even by limiting exposure to environmental, or man-made, carcinogens. That's simply because our DNA replication machinery isn't 100% (but is extremely close to perfect). Over the lifetime of an individual, chance mutations that occur simply by replicating DNA will cause cancer....But is that reason enough to ignore environmental, or man-made, carcinogens?

    May 6, 2010 at 18:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. eric

    It would be nice if they mentioned the links between fluoridation and cancer, or the pharmaceuticals which aren't fully metabolized by the human body, therefor passing through our systems unchanged into the water table. And as was reported in the news a few years ago wasn't being removed by any of the current water treatment facility methods. The difference they found from samples directly out of the rivers, and that of the cities tap water were extremely small. Unfortunately most pharmaceuticals come from those other fractions of oil which people rarely address.

    May 6, 2010 at 18:54 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.