No Safety In Numbers
Posted by Jill Chapin on Oct 22, 2006 - 10:00:00 PM
Breast Cancer Awareness Month begins discussion anew on the supposed benefit of more cancer research funding. It is discouraging that more cynical voices have not spoken out about the fallacy in this line of thinking. Simply throwing money around does not magically prevent or cure disease. Remember that multibillion dollar war on cancer that began 30 years ago? With breast cancer statistics skyrocketing since then, from one in 20 to one in eight, why do we remain confident that our government is nevertheless serving us well?
Because of the safety-in-numbers mentality, we assume that our entire population would not be put in danger. But tragically, this is exactly what is happening, and nowhere is it more apparent than in the area of public health.
Take mattresses for instance. By what measure of reasoning did we accept the law proclaiming all mattresses manufactured in the United States must be treated with carcinogenic flame retardants? Would anyone even imagine that our government would put an entire country in harm's way with this one requirement?
Yet because a few foolish, careless people set themselves on fire in bed, everyone else must now suffer the "cure" for their irresponsible behavior with carcinogenic chemicals that we snuggle up with for one- third of our lives. Worse, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is now debating how much fire retardant is acceptable in breast milk. Have modern experts lost their intellectual moorings, deep in their own subject matter without a shred of common sense attached to their thought process?
And what about mercury in children's vaccines, fluoride in our water, hormones, pesticides and antibiotics in our food, pollutants in our air? How much more research do we need on the deleterious effects of all these toxins?
We should not assume we are safe just because we are all living similar lifestyles. There is no safety in numbers, unless we shed our complacency and collectively realize that our government is our biggest impediment to good health. Just consider three major abusers of the public trust.
The FDA is my favorite example. Their own scientists conceded that the carcinogen, benzene, in soft drinks is nearly four times the tap water standard. Despite the World Health Organization's statement that "benzene is carcinogenic to humans and no safe level of exposure can be recommended," the FDA raises no public health concerns. And sadly, neither do you or your legislators. If benzene sounds familiar, it's because it's in your gasoline. So the FDA is actually monitoring the "safe" amount of premium unleaded in your Coke. And we are paying for them to track this absurdity.
Then there is the EPA. Several years ago the EPA began allowing polluters to monitor themselves. Even more appalling, they are required to monitor only 3 percent of the highest risk watersheds, leaving 97 percent monitored by - no one. So taxpayers are funding an environmental protection agency that is basically abdicating the very oversight protection for which it was created. Why are neither you nor your legislators outraged and declaring this unacceptable?
Pharmaceuticals are finding a growing number of skeptics regarding their disinformation, scare tactics and a profound concern for their bottom line. Yet too many Americans are nevertheless falling for those TV drug ads, demanding their doctors prescribe them. With medical knowledge being corrupted by self-interest or faulty research, why aren't we furious that drug companies are funding the majority of clinical research instead of us taxpayers? Because when pharmaceuticals run their own study, do you think they would claim their competition to have the more effective drug?
When researchers reported a possible breakthrough against cancer that is not a drug, but is instead white blood cells developed in lab mice that are immune to tumors, with the seeming ability of those mice to pass immunity on to their offspring, do you think drug companies welcome this remarkable non-toxic alternative to their chemotherapy drugs? Can you patent cells? Yet wouldn't you want your research dollars going into this study, rather than a pharmaceutical study whose primary concern is to develop yet another drug to replace those that are about to lose their patent? Your research dollars here go to drugs that don't have to be proven more effective than current ones; they only need to be slightly different.
Our government shamefully employs two arguments that seem to lull Americans into a state of complacency. One is that we should not worry about carcinogens because the data is inconclusive and they are continuing to do research. Europeans mock this mentality, calling it "paralysis by analysis." They prefer to protect their population from potentially harmful things with a "better-safe-than-sorry" approach, before they do research, not after.
Their second pitiful argument that we naively accept is that these carcinogenic levels are safe. Yet would you consider any level safe of a substance defined as that which produces or incites cancer? Worse, how safe is the cumulative effect of thousands of carcinogens that we encounter daily?
Are you mad as hell yet? Doesn't all of this, for which we pay dearly with our hard-earned income and our deteriorating health make you feel as though you are being raped, and then forced to pay for it? I'm a peaceful, law-abiding grandmother, and yet I'm beginning to long for the good old days of student protest, and even wonder what effect a 21st century version of the Boston Tea Party might have on our governing body.
In summary, we need to stop studying the obvious. We don't need more research on what's bad for us; we just need to get rid of it. Now.
A common sense bill, immediately banning known or suspected carcinogens that legislators would never sprinkle on their cereal would go a long way toward a healthier nation. And they need to put to rest the argument that an outright ban would put the economy in a nosedive, because for every toxic company put out of business, a green one would emerge.
That is because the entrepreneurial spirit of Americans would fix what ails us, if only we had the leadership and vision that would allow us to do so.