Pesticides and Breast Cancer: A Wake Up Call

Last year 2015, my classmate, Dr. Romeo Quijano, gave me this book.

I agree it is a wake up call. Be aware.

I particularly like these comments and recommendations:

  • “Scientifically it is impossible to prove that a particular pesticide does or does not cause breast cancer. It never will be proven. Regrettably this does not mean that the pesticides aren’t causing breast cancer.
  • The precautionary principle must be applied to the evidence indicating a potential increase in risk of breast cancer from pesticides.
  • The burden of responsibility for the potential role of individual pesticides in increasing the risk of breast cancer must shift to the pesticide industry and the regulatory authorities, to prove that individual pesticides will not cause or promote or increase the risk of breast cancer.

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Breast cancer incidence rose 30-40 percent from the 1970s to the 1990s and rates continue to escalate in the Asia Pacific region. New Zealand has one of the highest rates in the world. New Zealand’s Dr Meriel Watts set out to identify what synthetic chemicals may be contributing to breast cancer. Her research took three years and resulted in the book ‘Pesticides and Breast Cancer: A Wake Up Call’.

 It has been estimated that more than 80 percent of breast cancer cases are associated with environmental factors that include exposure to contaminants, lifestyle, and diet. There is considerable international concern that some of the 70,000 synthetic chemicals in our environment today may be directly linked to a large percentage of breast cancer cases, but there are no epidemiological studies to determine this. It has been observed that breast cancer incidence in Western countries has paralleled the proliferation of synthetic chemicals since World War II, and that as developing countries take up industrial agricultural practices their breast cancer rates escalate similarly. 

Meriel Watts’ book offers a comprehensive assessment of the available evidence. The introductory chapters discuss the broader issues and subsequent chapters discuss the many chemicals in the environment that affect breast cancer risk in laboratory studies and are likely to similarly affect people. It identifies 98 pesticides, one adjuvant and two contaminants that may be implicated in the global breast cancer epidemic, and provides evidence that 42 pesticides still in use in New Zealand may be contributing to the risk of breast cancer. The thorough review of these pesticides in the book make it a particularly useful resource book.

 “Scientifically it is impossible to prove that a particular pesticide does or does not cause breast cancer. It never will be proven. Regrettably this does not mean that the pesticides aren’t causing breast cancer,” says Dr Watts. “It is vital that the government develops a specific breast cancer strategy which recognises the role of synthetic chemicals in breast cancer, and includes testing of New Zealand women for body burdens of chemicals linked to breast cancer – and lastly and most importantly adopts a precautionary approach to chemicals for which there is evidence of a link with breast cancer, ensuring their replacement with safer alternatives.”

 

PESTICIDE ACTION NETWORK ASIA AND THE PACIFIC, THEREFORE, RECOMMENDS:

1. No woman or girl should be exposed to pesticides that have the potential to increase the risk of breast cancer, and especially not pregnant woman because of the exquisite vulnerability of the unborn child to carcinogens and endocrine disruption.

2. The rights of women to health, including reproductive health, must be given primacy in national and international policies and processes. Each country should develop breast cancer prevention plans that include the rapid removal of pesticides for which there is evidence of a potential to increase breast cancer risk.

3. Women should be encouraged to breast feed their children despite the current contamination of breast milk, and every effort must be made to reduce as fast as possible, and eventually eliminate, contamination of human breast milk, through reduction and eventual elimination of exposures  to persistent pesticides and other synthetic chemicals.

4. The precautionary principle must be applied to the evidence indicating a potential increase in risk of breast cancer from pesticides.

5. The continued use of pesticides that are persistent and which contaminate human tissue and fluids should cease completely. Currently some of the persistent pesticides identified here as breast cancer risks are covered by the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). These include aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, HCB, lindane, mirex, and toxaphene. But for some of these pesticides, there are exemptions permitting ongoing use that continues to expose women, children and the unborn foetus. For example, DDT is still widely used for malaria control in Africa, and its ongoing manufacture in India contaminates local communities. Others such as endosulfan are not evenwas added on the POPs list yetin 2011, and therefore: endosulfan should be placed on the POPs list with urgency and all further uses should be eliminated speedily.

6. The burden of responsibility for the potential role of individual pesticides in increasing the risk of breast cancer must shift to the pesticide industry and the regulatory authorities, to prove that individual pesticides will not cause or promote or increase the risk of breast cancer. It should not be left to public interest organisations and independent scientists to provide sufficient evidence of a link with breast cancer before regulatory authorities take action to remove the offending pesticide, because such proof, if it can be gathered to the extent that satisfies the regulatory process, is always too late for many women who will have already died from breast cancer.

7. Regulatory processes must be improved so that they incorporate all the mechanisms by which pesticides may contribute to breast cancer and hence can identify all pesticides that contribute to increasing the risk of breast cancer. Current regulatory processes for pesticides focus on identifying carcinogens that are genotoxic, and tend to ignore those chemicals that promote the growth of cancer cells or tumours, as many of the chemicals reviewed here do. The focus should be on hazard identification and elimination, rather than risk management.

8. The substitution principle must be applied and those pesticides that have the potential to increase the risk of breast cancer must be speedily replaced by safer substitutes, particularly by non-pesticide ecological methods of pest, weed and agri-ecosystem management.

9. Every effort should be made to support community monitoring of the effects of pesticides and to include the results of such monitoring in national and international pesticide regulatory and management processes. Community monitoring can act as an “alert system”, identifying pesticides that are potentially causing health effects including chronic effects, as well as identifying other pesticide problems.

Here is the link for the contents of the book:

http://library.ipamglobal.org/jspui/bitstream/ipamlibrary/703/1/Breast-cancer-pesticides-and-you.pdfhttp://library.ipamglobal.org/jspui/bitstream/ipamlibrary/703/1/Breast-cancer-pesticides-and-you.pdf

ROJ@16dec27

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