May 6, 2010--U.S. facing 'grievous harm' from chemicals in air, food, water, panel says (Washington Post)

An expert panel that advises the president on cancer said Thursday that Americans are facing "grievous harm" from chemicals in the air, food and water that have largely gone unregulated and ignored. The President's Cancer Panel called for a new national strategy that focuses on such threats in the environment and workplaces.Epidemiologists have long maintained that tobacco use, diet and other factors are responsible for most cancers, and that chemicals and pollutants cause only a small portion -- perhaps 5 percent. The presidential panel said that figure has been "grossly underestimated" but it did not provide a new estimate. Federal chemical laws are weak, funding for research and enforcement is inadequate, and regulatory responsibilities are split among too many agencies, the panel found. Children are particularly vulnerable because they are smaller and are developing faster than adults. The panel said the country needs to overhaul existing chemical laws, a conclusion that has been supported by public health groups, environmental advocates, the Obama administration and even the chemical industry. The current system places the burden on the government to prove that a chemical is unsafe before it can removed from the market. The standards are so high, the government has been unable to ban chemicals such as asbestos, a widely recognized carcinogen that is prohibited in many other countries. About 80,000 chemicals are in commercial use in the United States, but federal regulators have assessed only about 200 for safety.

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