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Toxic Chemicals and the Rise of Childhood Cancer: What is the Relationship?

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Toxic chemicals and the rise of Childhood Cancer Since 1975 cancer in American children has increased, especially childhood leukemia and brain cancer. Meanwhile, 80,000 chemicals have been produced in the U.S. to create commonly-used products, which include known carcinogens such as asbestos, formaldehyde, lead, cadmium, trichloroethylene, and vinyl chloride, with virtually no government oversight. The use of toxic chemicals has risen dramatically in the last 50 years to a point that they are now ubiquitous in human bodies and our environment. Although it is not clear exactly why these childhood cancers are on the rise, a substantial and growing body of evidence suggests that these chemicals may play a role.

Last year the President’s Cancer Panel report provided strong confirmation that exposure to toxic chemicals is an important and under-recognized risk factor for cancer, and recommended that the Government take immediate action to reverse this trend. In fact, the Panel highlighted the need for Congress to reform the failed 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), commenting that this law is “the most egregious example of ineffective regulation of chemical contaminants” and noting that weaknesses in the law have constrained the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from being able to properly regulate known and suspected carcinogens.

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