Creating Community-Based Cancer Prevention
Education Campaigns Focusing Upon Pollution That Causes Cancer
Cancer Action NY works in communities to create community-based
cancer prevention education campaigns. We initiate a cancer prevention
education campaign in a particular community by conducting a series of
workshops for various community groups, including: students, artists,
civic groups, environmental groups, and the news media. (Please see
workshop description provided below.) Workshops for students and
artists include a poster making session. The posters produced in these
workshops are posted in public buildings such as libraries, college
unions, town halls, county government buildings, etc. As the campaign
progresses growing numbers of community members use their writing,
public speaking and artistic skills to join into the educational
effort. In this manner, the community educates itself. Communities
that have come to understand the connections between pollution and
cancer take action to protect the environment and their bodies.
If your community is interested in coming together to educate,
improve public health and protect the Earth, contact us about getting
Pollutant Carcinogen Exposure Reduction Education
This Cancer Action NY
workshop is on
the subject of creating community-based cancer prevention education
campaigns focusing upon pollutant carcinogen exposure reduction. The
educational campaign is described as community-based due to
the fact that various parts of the community, including: students,
local artists, civic organizations, environmental groups and the news
media work together to provide information to the public in unique and
inspiring ways. In this manner, the community educates itself.
The workshop begins with
instruction in the environmental science of pollutants that cause
cancer. Pollutants covered in the workshop include: dioxins,
polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs),
polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and benzene. Dioxins and PBDEs
are part of a larger group of pollutants described as persistent organic
pollutants (POPs). These pollutants bio-accumulate in animal fat;
exposure occurs via consumption of animal fat foods, including,
meats, fish, eggs and dairy products. PAHs and benzene are products of
combustion present in gasoline and diesel exhaust. The US Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) lists open waste burning as the largest source
of dioxin releases to the environment. Open waste burning includes the
burning of household waste in backyard barrels and refuse heaps, as well
as agricultural burning of plastics and other non-natural
materials. According to EPA, over 95 percent of dioxin exposure is
incurred by consumption of animal fat.
Secondly, cancer risk
information is presented. According to the US EPA dioxin reassessment,
dioxin exposure cancer risk for average consumption of animal fat foods
is 1 in 1000. Average exposure to PAHs imposes an approximately 1 in
10,000 excess cancer risk. Large numbers of Americans are exposed to
these carcinogens at levels sufficient to impose significant cancer
Workshop participants will
instruction in minimization of pollutant releases and exposure avoidance
final portion of the workshop trains participants to work together as
cancer prevention educators using their own particular skills as
artists, dancers, musicians, public speakers, or writers.
What People Need to Know About Dioxin Exposure Cancer Risk and Dioxin Exposure Reduction
The 2003 draft US EPA dioxin reassessment includes a quantification of the cancer risk imposed by dioxin exposure. Based upon US EPA data generated prior to the tenancy of the Bush administration, the average American eats a quantity of animal fat foods: dairy products, meats, fish and eggs that contains the amount of dioxins equal to a 1.0 pg/kg bw/day dose. The US EPA cancer risk slope factor for dioxin exposure is 1/1000. By multiplying the exposure number by the cancer risk slope factor one calculates the cancer risk imposed by dioxin exposure for Americans. This equals 1 in 1000. The population level cancer outcome of dioxin exposure is the number of cancer cases that equals 1/1000 of the total US population of approximately 308 million. This equals 308,000 people diagnosed with cancer due to dioxin exposure every 70 years.
Cancer Prevention: Creating Public Education on Dioxin Exposure Reduction Involving Exposure Avoidance
Donald L. Hassig, Director, Cancer Action NY and the Cool Cancer Action Network
New York State adopted a Comprehensive Cancer Control Plan (NYS CCCP) in 2003. The draft NYS CCCP stated that pollution was not a significant cause of cancer. Cancer Action NY raised a protesting cry and an AP story was picked up by New York Post and numerous other newspapers.. We followed the first salvo with a press conference at the Legislative Office Building in the Empire State Plaza and as a result the NYS CCCP was revised. New York's final cancer control plan is far ahead of many other states in matters of cancer prevention addressing pollutant carcinogens. Goal Number 2 of the NYS CCCP is to Reduce Environmental Exposure: "By 2010, reduce population risks associated with environmental exposures to known or likely environmental risk factors for cancer." The problem with this plan is that it is not being vigorously acted upon. The only significant change, which has taken place in New York State that will lead to reducing environmental exposure is the banning of open waste burning statewide.
The NYS Department of Health staff who implement the cancer control plan do so as if Goal No. 2 did not exist. Since the adoption of the cancer control plan in 2003, Cancer Action NY has sought to motivate the NYS DOH to create a public health document that fully explains the matter of dioxin exposure cancer risk and dioxin exposure reduction. The Department of Health has indicated that it may be willing to revise its brochure, "Reducing Environmental Exposure: The Seven Best Kid Friendly Practices" at some later date. The current version of this brochure points out the damages to health that are associated with respiratory exposure to the smoke from waste fires. However, there is no information in this brochure regarding dioxin contamination of animal fat containing foods: dairy products, meats and eggs.
The NYS CCCP is better than the MN CCCP. Under the heading of Guiding Principles, the MN CCCP states: "We support science-based and evidence-informed approaches to address cancer control across the continuum of cancer care." There is no mention of pollutant carcinogens in this document.
New York has a superior CCCP to that in existence in Pennsylvania. The PA CCCP, also adopted in 2003, states as a Core Goal: "Prevent cancer from occurring whenever possible." In the section of this plan, which sets forth Priority Goals and Objectives for Cancer Prevention and Healthy Lifestyles there is no mention of reducing exposure to pollutant carcinogens, only cigarette smoke.
The WI CCCP sets forth as Goal No. 1: "Reduce the risk of developing cancer." The priority action of this plan is to: "Develop priorities from scientific data to address Wisconsin's cancer burden." Priority areas of the Prevention Section of the WI CCCP include: Tobacco, Healthy Lifestyles and Sunlight. No pollutant carcinogens to be found in here.
The Michigan Cancer Consortium Initiative fails to list a single pollutant risk factor in its Breast Cancer Factsheet. This Factsheet does not list animal fat consumption as a risk factor. Objective No. 2 of the MI CCI Breast Cancer Priority Strategic Plan is: "Women should receive information to help them understand their risk of developing breast cancer."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Comprehensive Cancer Control Program's National CCC Promotional Toolkit contains the following on the subject of risk reduction:
Pollutant carcinogens are missing from this document.
During 2009, Cancer Action NY has made a concerted effort to move the Division of Cancer Prevention and Control (DCPC), a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop public education materials that explain the presence of dioxins in the food supply and advise Americans to greatly reduce their consumption of animal fat foods for the purpose of reducing dioxin exposure. Dr. Marcus Plescia, Director of the DCPC, has taken the position that no dioxin exposure reduction literature will be produced at this time. He expressed an interest in pursuing the enactment of waste burning bans across the US via advocacy efforts from the cancer control programs in the various states.
A limited amount of information on dioxin exposure cancer risk and exposure reduction is available on the National Cancer Institute website. There is no information on this site concerning the amount of cancer risk imposed by dioxin exposure.
Steps Toward Further Reducing Dioxin Levels in the Environment
The 1997 US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) report, "Evaluation of Emissions from the Open Burning of Household Waste in Barrels", provides a quantification of pollutants released by open waste fires. The author indicates that burning the residential waste (paper, plastics, rubber, foam rubber and metal foils) of 1.5 families in barrels can release an amount of dioxins into the environment equal to that released by a municipal solid waste incinerator burning 200 tons per day. In follow-up test burns, the Agency has determined that open waste burning creates and releases dioxins over a considerable range of values due to the highly complex nature of combustion. Open waste fires are highly productive of dioxins due to the low temperature at which combustion occurs and limited oxygen availability. Sooty, smoldering fires are the fires that create dioxins most prodigiously. When polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is burned, dioxin emissions are increased.
Particulates, upon which are adsorbed dioxins and dioxin-like compounds, deposit from the polluted atmosphere onto animal feed crops such as pasture grass and corn. Entry into the aquatic food chains occurs via contamination of surface waters. Dioxins and dioxin-like compounds bioaccumulate in the food chain due to the highly persistent nature of these chemical pollutants.
As set forth in the EPA's most recent dioxin inventory, open waste burning is considered to be the largest source of dioxin releases to the environment. It is estimated that approximately 20 million burning barrels are utilized for waste disposal in the United States.
A form of open burning that has been found to emit dioxins at greater rates than barrel burning is the burning of waste in open refuse heaps. Such fires are used for disposal of plastics and other waste materials on farms. These fires occur in close proximity to feed crops of cattle and other animals, and are thus likely to be particularly important in the contamination of the food supply.
On October 14, 2009, 6NYCRR Part 215, Open Fires, a statewide waste burning ban took full effect in New York State. Hopefully, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation will follow the establishment of the burning ban with the creation of an education program that adequately funds public education on dioxin exposure cancer risk and the open waste burning dioxin source. All other states which do not already have an open waste burning ban must immediately follow this good example and create such a ban via rule-making or legislation.
For further information: Donald L. Hassig, Director, Cancer Action NY and the Cool Cancer Action Network