I Wish I Were Far From the Madding Crowd

May 10, 2010

President’s Cancer Panel report on “Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk”

Nicholas Kristof blogged about the President’s Cancer Panel (PCP) issuing its Annual Report for 2008-2009 entitled “Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk, What We Can Do Now,” in “New Alarm Bells About Chemicals and Cancer“.  While his blog is very informative, the report itself can be found at Annual Report for 2008-2009 (the URL for the PCP reports page is http://deainfo.nci.nih.gov/advisory/pcp/pcp.htm).

The Panel looked at Sources and Types of Environmental Contaminants, including Exposure to Contaminants from Industrial and Manufacturing Sources, Exposure to Contaminants from Agricultural Sources, Environmental Exposures Related to Modern Lifestyles, Exposure to Hazards from Medical Sources, Exposure to Contaminants and Other Hazards from Military Sources, and Exposure to Environmental Hazards from Natural Sources.

The text of the letter accompanying the report:

Though overall cancer incidence and mortality have continued to decline in recent years, the disease continues to devastate the lives of far too many Americans. In 2009 alone, approximately 1.5 million American men, women, and children were diagnosed with cancer, and 562,000 died from the disease. With the growing body of evidence linking environmental exposures to cancer, the public is becoming increasingly aware of the unacceptable burden of cancer resulting from environmental and occupational exposures that could have been prevented through appropriate national action. The Administration’s commitment to the cancer community and recent focus on critically needed reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act is praiseworthy. However, our Nation still has much work ahead to identify the many existing but unrecognized environmental carcinogens and eliminate those that are known from our workplaces, schools, and homes.

To jumpstart this national effort, the President’s Cancer Panel (the Panel) dedicated its 2008–2009 activities to examining the impact of environmental factors on cancer risk. The Panel considered industrial, occupational, and agricultural exposures as well as exposures related to medical practice, military activities, modern lifestyles, and natural sources. In addition, key regulatory, political, industrial, and cultural barriers to understanding and reducing environmental and occupational carcinogenic exposures were identified. The attached report presents the Panel’s recommendations to mitigate or eliminate these barriers.

The Panel was particularly concerned to find that the true burden of environmentally induced cancer has been grossly underestimated. With nearly 80,000 chemicals on the market in the United States, many of which are used by millions of Americans in their daily lives and are un- or understudied and largely unregulated, exposure to potential environmental carcinogens is widespread. One such ubiquitous chemical, bisphenol A (BPA), is still found in many consumer products and remains unregulated in the United States, despite the growing link between BPA and several diseases, including various cancers.

While BPA has received considerable media coverage, the public remains unaware of many common environmental carcinogens such as naturally occurring radon and manufacturing and combustion by-products such as formaldehyde and benzene. Most also are unaware that children are far more vulnerable to environmental toxins and radiation than adults. Efforts to inform the public of such harmful exposures and how to prevent them must be increased. All levels of government, from federal to local, must work to protect every American from needless disease through rigorous regulation of environmental pollutants.

Environmental exposures that increase the national cancer burden do not represent a new front in the ongoing war on cancer. However, the grievous harm from this group of carcinogens has not been addressed adequately by the National Cancer Program. The American people—even before they are born—are bombarded continually with myriad combinations of these dangerous exposures. The Panel urges you most strongly to use the power of your office to remove the carcinogens and other toxins from our food, water, and air that needlessly increase health care costs, cripple our Nation’s productivity, and devastate American lives.

What the Panel recommends people do….

March 5, 2010

Open Government Initiative (deadline March 19!)

While poking around the National Cancer Institute’s website, I noticed an image prominently displayed saying “Share your ideas for Cancer.gov“.

That takes you to the website of a company called IdeaScale.  They had information there about the White House’s OpenGov Dialogue (which is now closed).  But ironically there was no link from that to the OpenGov websites of other U.S. government agencies, even though IdeaScale has an Open Government page with a paragraph specifically noting how its tool can be used by “Federal Agencies.”  It even has a link so that if you’re with a federal, state, or local agency, you can sign up.  But no list and no link!

So I Googled “+site:ideascale.com +gov” and got a list of hits.  I eventually got to the White House Open Government Initiative site at http://www.whitehouse.gov/open, which lets you click on “Around the Government” and see a “dashboard” for federal agencies showing their progress in meeting certain milestones.  When you click on the name of a department or an agency, you get sent to the “Open Gov” page for that agency.  From there you can go to the dialogue tool for that agency.

But still no comprehensive list.

I finally discovered that if you’re on the White House Open Government Initiative site and you click on Tell Top Agencies How to Achieve Greater Transparency, Participation, and Collaboration, you get sent to http://www.usa.gov/webcontent/open/tool_poc.shtml.  The links on that page send you to the individual agency “Open Gov” pages, which then provide links to the agency dialogue pages.

However, a link to the actual Agency Contact Information for Dialog Tools is provided on that page (and yes it’s in the text at the top, but not really prominently displayed—it’s just a link in the text rather than highlighted as an important link at the top of the page).  But what surprised was how many links I was surprised by how many hoops you had to jump through to get to one comprehensive list.  It wouldn’t be that difficult to put a list to that agency list on the other sites.  In fact, there should be a prominently displayed button on the White House page.

Also, from the couple of idea pages for different departments I looked at, it appears that you have to register to submit comments (or vote on ideas).  I haven’t done that, but given the way it’s set up I wouldn’t be surprised if you have to register for each agency separately.  (If that is true, maybe I can make a suggestion about that.)

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