What are we doing to our children? The environmental causes of childhood cancer

Is the cancer epidemic a wakeup call? Just in this last week I have been getting several not-so-subtle messages that we are all being subject to physical, electrical, chemical and emotional stressors that separately may not be significant enough to truncate our health, but combined might be enough to overwhelm our bodies' ability to raise a defence.

Doctors in the pediatric department of the medical school hospital in which I trained think that childhood cancer is reaching epidemic proportions. Fifty years ago, we saw a couple of cases a year. Now the wards are full of these tragedies. What is going on?

Attacks on Immunity

The immune system is essential, not only to combat infections due to germs, viruses and fungi, but also to combat cancer and tumor growths. The Department of Environmental Quality believes that children are particularly vulnerable to environmental health risks because of their developing immune systems. Children are at increased risk from many environmental threats in three ways:

1. Rapid changes in growth and development, plus their immature body organs and tissues and weaker immune systems make children more susceptible to these threats.
2. Children eat proportionately more food, drink more fluids and breathe more air per pound of body weight and they play outside more, therefore they are more exposed to environmental threats.
3. Their behavior -- such as crawling on the ground or the floor -- exposes them to different environmental hazards.

These health hazards -- pollution, lead-based paints, mercury fillings, resistant microbes in drinking water and persistent industrial chemicals -- may cause cancer or induce reproductive or developmental changes. We know these environmental hazards destroy the immune system, but the large chemical companies believe each of their compounds is safe by itself.

Dr Eric Dover is a medical doctor in Salem, Oregon who has been keeping an eye on PCBs and other chemicals in our country. He says there are currently 70,000 chemicals in use in urban and rural sites with 2,000 admitted toxins added each year. None of these chemicals is offensive or dangerous when used by itself in the amounts stated on the label (are we sure?) but when added to the rest, the effects are cumulative. Some chemicals have hormone-like effects and can (and do) change physiological functioning. DDT use has been banned in our country, but it is manufactured here and sent to countries overseas for use there. This and other pesticides are on plants, fruits and vegetables that we import. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates these chemicals one at a time. It has finally begun to phase in a method to assess the combined risk posed by such chemicals; the multifactorial approach seems to make sense. The US government is trying to encourage the use of safe, cost-effective methods as alternatives to traditional pesticides: the use of biological pesticides. Reevaluations are being done at a rate of 40 per year. Why not eliminate the use of pesticides and herbicides altogether? Because that might hurt big chemical businesses.

Toxic Playgrounds

Some good evidence points out the connection between chemical spills or releases and the appearance of cancer in nearby residents. The US Environmental Quality Department is supposed to be watching for these spills and the illegal dumping of dangerous cancer-producing chemicals and bringing the perpetrators to a speedy justice. It is sadly understaffed.

Toxic waste dumps are a neighborhood blight and a health hazard to our communities, especially to our children. Ten million, children under the age of 10 live within four miles of a toxic waste dump and our cities are littered with thousand of abandoned industrial sites. Toxic chemicals not only lead to cancer in children but can also damage reproductive and thyroid hormones. These endocrine disrupters may also play an important role in reproductive cancers.

The prohibition of the burning of hazardous waste has slowed the emissions of dioxins -- a family of toxic chemicals that causes cancer in animals. Dioxin and other bioaccumulative chemicals concentrate at higher levels in breast milk.

Water, Water Everywhere...

Each year, more than 100,000 children accidentally directly ingest pesticides, often straight from the tap. The EPA estimates that last year, a total of 30 million Americans drank contaminated water. If one can smell it, it is having an effect on the body.

Polluted waters not only affect children when they swim in our lakes and streams, but also when they eat certain freshwater fish. Hundreds of beaches are closed each summer due to raw sewage and other contamination, raising special concerns that pregnant women and children should not eat fish caught in this water. From January to September 1994, some 1,500 fish advisories were posted -- with 73 per cent of them related to mercury contamination. If unborn children are exposed to high doses of methyl mercury and PCBs, they may develop learning disabilities, cancer and delayed development. The EPA banned PCBs in 1976 because they cause cancer; but this toxic chemical continues to persist in the environment, often in contaminated fish.

The Great Lakes pose particular health effects on reproduction and children's development and immune systems. Electrical equipment may contain PCBs. Twelve major utility companies have reported that they have removed almost 90 per cent of PCBs from their equipment. Is it too late?

Danger Zones: Vaccines and Sunlight

Leonard Horowitz, DMD, author of Emerging Viruses, points out how the vaccines we so cavalierly inject into children (and adults) have served to hurt the immune systems of those injectees, rather than help their immune systems.

Barbara Lee Fisher, co-founder of the National Vaccine Information Center stated: "Every citizen is forced by law to use vaccines which are being poorly studied, tested and regulated for safety as well as unsafely administered, and no one is held accountable when a citizen, usually a child, is injured or killed by that product." Forcing individuals to risk injury or death without their consent is a violation of civil and human rights, the Nuremberg Code and the Helsinki Declarations.

Overexposure to the sun's harmful ultraviolet light can damage children's skin. The American Academy of Dermatology estimates that up to 80 per cent of a person's lifetime exposure to potentially damaging ultraviolet light occurs before the age of 18. Ultraviolet rays pose a threat to children because severe sunburns experienced in childhood increase the likelihood of developing malignant melanoma, the most deadly kind of skin cancer. Last year there were an estimated one million new cases of skin cancer in the United States.

Supplements for Protection

We have a few immune system boosters that will counteract these poisons, protect against cancer and control infections, hyperactivity and some nervous and mental diseases, including autism. Our topsoil and, consequently, our foods, no matter how naturally they are grown, are mineral and vitamin deficient. Vitamin C is our best defence and everyone should be on this even before birth. Three thousand mg daily for a pregnant woman is a start. The baby should get 100 mg per day per month of age. (The six-month-old would get 600 mg, the year-old gets 1,000 milligrams daily, the two-year-old would get 2,000 mg.) A daily dose of 2,000 to 5,000 mg would be prudent for a lifetime. Beta-carotene, vitamin E, magnesium, CoQ(10) plus the B vitamins are also a good idea.

Dr Darryl See has stated that 35 per cent of cancers are due to our unsatisfactory diet. New research has indicated that glyconutrients support the immune system. We all get enough glucose and galactose, but for the complete complement we need fucose, mannose, xylose and others which are provided if we eat enough vine-ripened, fresh or flash-frozen organically grown fruits and vegetables. These are the phytonutrients we all need but only about one per cent of our children are getting.

Help your kids stay healthy and cancer-free. Avoid these stupid, useless procedures, additives and medical suggestions: fluoride (another poison; does not help toughen the teeth and might lower the IQ); aspartame (many are very sensitive to this); mercury/silver amalgam fillings (lowers resistance to diseases, especially of the nervous system); vaccinations (they are not effective and apparently lower the immune system function); sugar; and caffeine.
References:

(1.) Erickson, KL, Thomas, IK. Role of Dietary Fat, Cancer Correlated with High Fat Diet. Food Tech, Feb 1985.

(2.) Stahelin, HB, et al. Vitamin C Levels Lower in Cancer Group. J Nat Cancer Institute, 1984.

(3.) Tsutsui, T et al. Induction of Unscheduled DNA Synthesis by Sodium Fluoride, Mutation Rec, 1984.

Article copyright Canadian Health Reform Products Ltd.

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By Lendon Smith

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