RACHEL CARSON DAY 27th MAY
Man has put the vast majority of carcinogens into the environment and he can, if he wishes, eliminate many of them. The most determined effort should be made to eliminate those carcinogens that now contaminate our food, our water supplies, and our atmosphere, because these provide the most dangerous types of contact – minute exposure repeated over and over throughout the years.
Silent Spring 1962
RACHEL CARSON marine biologist, writer and conservationist
In the year 1962, Rachel Carson was not only another breast cancer statistic, but the woman whose writing skills and scientific acumen shocked the world upon publication of ‘Silent Spring’ in which her research findings of irreversible reproductive and genetic damage to aquatic-life forms resulting from the use of pesticides were presented in her signature narrative style. Her attention to smaller aquatic life forms at the bottom of the food-chain revealed the multiplier effect for life forms at higher levels, with major predictable effects for we humans in our position at the top of the chain. The changes being observed and recorded by Carson were an early warning of the future scenario for all life forms. As such they still stand as the first scientifically-based predictions of both real and potential harm to life from manmade chemicals.
Fifty years on and the shocking difference between then and now is that there are many thousands more manmade chemicals being produced and released into the environment than the number developed by the smaller scale post-war chemicals industry of Carson’s time. Many of these are linked to breast cancer risk and right now there is a battle to ensure that post-Brexit UK remains within existing EU chemicals legislation (REACH), which is regarded as the best in the world.
Every day of our lives, from pre-birth to death, we eat, drink, breathe and handle countless numbers of synthetic chemicals. We wear them, we rub them onto our skin and hair, we wash ourselves, our children, our pets, our cars and clothes in them. We sit, sleep, drive, walk and run both in and on them. We spray them on our gardens, our worktops, and into the air in our living and work spaces. We clean our cars, houses, teeth and tools with them. We decorate ourselves and our homes with them. We write, paint and play with them.
Chemicals have undeniable value and use in modern life. We need them, for instance, to sterilize medical equipment, to control invasive insect species and the formation of rust and mould, to remove grease and oil spills, to preserve food and to destroy harmful bacteria. What we don’t need are the vast numbers of chemicals in production that replicate those required for essential uses. Nor do we need the uncontrolled, non-stop development by the chemicals industry of non-essential synthetic chemical compounds such as plastics, food dyes, colourings and flavourings, synthetic perfumes, chemicals that extend shelf life, enhance appearance, texture and smell in products that end up in landfills to contaminate soil and water. Above all, what we least need are chemicals that are hazardous to life, health and environment.
Meantime, the shocking truth is this: government and industry leaders in modern world societies choose to ignore the powerfully visible, scientifically recorded and documented evidence available for all to see. As do the breast cancer charities whose job it is to alert all of us to all of the risk factors – not a selected few linked to lifestyle.
From Pink to Prevention exists to counter this narrowly focused, often misleading and out-dated message with a direct question asking those who perpetuate this partial understanding to explain why they persist in this practice.
Why do government, industry and the breast cancer charities persist in refusing to acknowledge the role of environmental and occupational toxicants and other factors of influence (FOIs) , (eg shift work) in breast cancer and ignore decades of evidence up to the present day – from organisations such as World Health Organisation and the EU and other respected scientific bodies – on which the link between our lifelong (womb to grave) exposures to toxic chemicals and substances and the escalating incidence of breast cancer, among many other diseases, is based?
Read the full article by Diana Ward here
Learn more about this remarkable woman
Short 5 min film about her life and work:
Bill Moyers film to mark the 2007 Centenary of her birth
New York Times obituary, written April 15, 1964.
New York Times Magazine 2012: How SILENT SPRING ignited the environmental movement
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Brexit and EU regulation on chemicals
MPs want post-Brexit UK to keep EU’s main chemicals regulations.
The UK House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has today published the report of its inquiry on chemicals regulation after the EU referendum, which particularly focussed on the EU’s world-leading REACH system for regulating chemicals. The EAC criticise the UK Government’s lack of openness about its post-Brexit plans, and point out that most respondents want the UK to remain ‘as closely aligned to REACH as possible‘.
Thanks to our colleagues at CHEM Trust for their reporting of this. Here is their critical response to the inquiry report
CHEM Trust’s Executive Director Dr Michael Warhurst commented on the inquiry’s conclusions:
“The EAC is right to criticise the lack of information from the Government on its plans for the crucial issue of chemicals regulation after Brexit, and it is good that the committee did this inquiry, given that the Government has not been open and consultative in this area.
The Committee also makes clear that there is considerable support across all stakeholders for the UK to stay within the EU’s REACH regulatory system – it is not perfect, but it is the best in the world. Any attempt to create a new UK system would be both much more expensive and much less effective than REACH, threatening the protection of people and the environment.
However, CHEM Trust is disappointed that the Committee does not say more about the option that we view as the most realistic way of keeping an effective regulatory system, which is that the UK asks to remain fully part of the REACH system in a future Free Trade Agreement with the EU. There are strong indications that the EU27 would be receptive to such an approach, with both the EU Parliament and the EU27 governments having stated the importance of the UK continuing to match EU environmental standards.
The Committee suggests that the UK might just be able to be involved in the REACH Registration system, but we would view this as unrealistic, as the EU27 has spoken against ‘cherry picking’ in the Brexit deal. Such an approach would not mean that the UK public, workers and the environment was not automatically subject to the same level of protection as the rest of the EU. This could lead to chemicals, products and processes that are banned in the EU being used in the UK, as we become the ‘dirty man of Europe’ again.
Finally, we do not view the US system as a viable model for the UK, as it is considerable less effective than REACH, and also UK industry trades far more with the EU than with the US.”
This is an issue to raise with everyone who has a stake in the breast cancer prevention debate – from breast cancer charities to our parliamentary candidates in the upcoming election.
Will they support the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee call for the UK to remain to as close as possible to EU’s chemicals regulation known as REACH and by extension, play their part in seeing exposures to chemicals linked to breast cancer reduced and ultimately eliminated?