Subject: An Ounce: Hallowe'en Twixt Pink and Blue, and more Cancer Prevention News

In this newsletter:
Hallowe’en – Naturally Flameproof, Unnaturally Hormonal
Re-Think Pink. If breast cancer is really preventable, where do you put your money?
Update: Prevent Cancer Now Board of Directors
News and Actions
Hallowe’en – Naturally Flameproof
Preventing cancer despite dysfunctional Canadian chemical regulation

Hallowe’en bridges awareness months for breast and prostate cancers.

The festival and diseases are like fire and brimstone, with the Hallowe’en bridge paved in chemicals meant to slow burning – flame retardants. Exuding from plastic holiday costumes and trappings, and from many everyday products, flame retardants can affect hormone systems and cause breast, prostate and other cancers, and many chronic health problems.

Real pumpkins don’t burn. Opt for a healthier Hallowe’en with creative costumes from the back of the closet, a good ol’ pillowcase for the loot, and natural instead of plastic decorations.

Persistent flame retardants are hard to avoid. They are in homes, furniture, electronics and clothing, and get into fish and wildlife and our blood, fat, breast milk, and newborn babies. Chemicals are absorbed through the skin, contaminate dust, wash off products and end up in waterways, and over decades, have spread to contaminate global environments.
Canadian scientists concerned about widespread chemicals that disrupt hormone (endocrine) systems, the Endocrine Disruptors Action Group (EDAction), released a new report Toxic by Design. Recent generations have seen a succession of toxic, persistent flame retardants being replaced with similar chemicals. Worse, as the toxic brew gets more complicated chemicals can team up to be harmful, and it is harder to see through the fog of scientific uncertainties to pin the blame on the culprits.
Earlier chemicals resembling hormones with chlorine atoms were found to persist in the environment, accumulate in our bodies and be toxic. “Polychlorinated biphenyls” or PCBs were banned, but their replacements were similar chemicals adorned with the chemical cousin bromine. Chemists are not surprised that history repeated itself.

In 2006, some “polybrominated diphenyl ethers” or PBDEs were recognized as toxic. A geeky fact – PBDEs with 4, 5 or 6 bromine atoms were banned while those with 7 to 10 bromine atoms were permitted. This is puzzling and perverse because the permitted versions degrade in the environment to form the banned chemicals.

Finally, the other PBDEs are to be banned from manufacturing in Canada. EDAction tells us, however, that PBDEs are actually not manufactured in Canada. Banning raw materials will have little effect because PBDE-containing goods such as fabric, foam, furniture, clothing, electronics and building materials are exempt. Recycled plastics and foam can be contaminated.

So, Canadian stores will still sell products with flame retardants that are so toxic that they merit “virtual elimination.” Thank globalized trade. EDAction says to write a letter asking for labelling. Albeit a mediocre second-best, labelling would enable safer consumer choices if better choices are available. The treat is that there are hundreds of possible chemical substitutes. The trick is that chemical cousins may be just as bad.

Canada should aspire to a goal of safe chemicals within a generation. The real solutions, when possible, are to opt for inherently safer, more durable alternatives, such as metal rather than plastic, naturally flame retardant fabrics including linen and wool, to skip unnecessary uses such as in foam cushions, and to ensure independent science.

We have until December 7th to respond about more flame retardants and until December 1st to tell Parliamentarians that we want to shift to clearly least-toxic, inherently safe options. It is time It’s time to review those ill-founded flammability standards, and to stop the parade of hazardous chemicals that are permitted until proven to be toxic.

That is too scary!

Prevent Cancer Now is a Canadian national civil society organization including scientists, health professionals and citizens working to stop cancer before it starts, through research, education and advocacy to eliminate preventable causes of cancer.
For additional information, please contact:
Meg Sears, PhD
Chair and Science Advisor, Prevent Cancer Now
(613) 297-6042

See the Endocrine Disruptors Action Group. for the report Toxic by Design: Eliminating harmful flame retardant chemicals from our bodies, homes, & communities and a lot more!

Canada Gazette. Consultation information for brominated flame retardants.
Parliament of Canada. Environment Committee seeks input from stakeholders for its review of the

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999

Chemical Substances. Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs).

Chicago Tribune. Playing with fire.

Re-Think Pink During Cancer Awareness Months
A Prevent Cancer Now Challenge to Canadians
October’s pink “Breast Cancer Awareness” ribbons raise attention for the disease and extract millions of dollars from Canadians’ pockets, but do not prevent cancer. Companies associate their products with breast cancer awareness, while increasing their profit margins and elevating their corporate image. Before buying in, we should ask:
1.     Who gets the money, and what do they do with it?
2.     How much (if any) money goes to research, to prevent or to treat breast cancer?
3.     Is this “pink-washing”? Does this company make products that may contribute to breast cancer, perhaps with ingredients that interfere with hormones? What is the company doing to ensure that their products, supply chain and corporate practices embrace least-toxic approaches and do not add to the disease?
Some products are suspected of even promoting the disease. “The challenge is not to wear a ribbon, buy cosmetics or run a race – it is to take steps every day to make the least-toxic choices, to stop the disease before it starts. Indeed, laws and regulations should ensure that our food, water, air and products are truly safe, because Prevention is the Cure,” declared Prevent Cancer Now (PCN) chair Meg Sears.
If you haven’t had breast cancer you probably know women who have, as one in nine Canadian women develops it in her lifetime. Breast cancers are increasing in young Canadian women, with no turnaround in sight. It is commonly diagnosed worldwide, with clear environmental links. Women in industrialized countries have more than twice the rate of breast cancers compared with those in developing countries. Rates for women immigrating to a region with higher breast cancer incidence gradually increase, and their daughters match the local norm.
 “Established” breast cancer risk factors account for less than half of diagnosed cases.
Mainstream cancer prevention focuses on early detection (mammograms, that may do more harm than good due to over-diagnosis), and lifestyle factors. Avoid smoking, drinking alcohol, eating fat, red meat, sugar and processed foods, and being inactive. This narrative places the onus of responsibility squarely on individual women, while dismissing environmental links to cancer.
Diana Daghofer, past-chair of PCN and current chair of the Hills of Erin Cancer Prevention Foundation, is a thriving breast cancer survivor. She worked in health promotion and followed all the “rules” of good health. She ate well, exercised regularly, maintained a healthy weight, did not smoke and limited her alcohol consumption. She had no family history of the disease, so where did her breast cancer come from? No one can say, of course, but Diana wonders about the chlorine-filled pools she frequented from childhood through adolescence, and regular, long swims in the Ottawa River as an adult, downstream from the Chalk River nuclear facilities. Her family lived in a walk-up apartment in downtown Montreal when she was born. Did traffic emissions affect her health years later? Other women wonder about cosmetics, pesticides and more. The research that might pinpoint these answers just isn’t being done. Nevertheless, other evidence can still inform cancer prevention.
Cancer is a complex disease. Environmental factors can alter how breast cells grow and interact, stop genes from working properly, and disarm the immune system so that cancers progress. Everyday exposures to a myriad of chemicals can contribute to breast cancer; can tip the balance. Obesity, commonly fingered as a cause, may also be a storehouse for fat-loving cancer-causing chemicals from food, water, air and products. Cell phone radiation from phones carried against the body may also cause breast cancer.

Researcher Ellen Sweeney, co-author of Selling Pink: Feminizing the Non-Profit Industrial Complex through Ribbons and LemonAid (August, 2016) sums it up, ‘The current approach of Breast Cancer Awareness Month dismisses broader political, social and structural factors that influence the disease. Only a truly precautionary approach can be effective to protect women’s health and prevent breast cancer. We need to move away from awareness campaigns that focus on individual-level factors, towards an upstream approach that focuses on everyday exposures to toxic substances.”

The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, Canada's major breast cancer group that just raised $17 million in the CIBC Run for the Cure, is aligned with many major institutions such as Pepsico (follow link for "Dole Sparklers") and Shoppers Drug Mart. Limited online information addresses the environment. Web links about hormone-disruptors were 404 mid-October, and they do not promote avoiding hormone mimicking chemicals in personal care products, junk food, pesticides (wash them off, they say), genetically engineered crops, etc. CBCF is merging with the Canadian Cancer Society.

Breast Cancer Action. (2016). “4 Questions Before You Buy Pink.” Available from,
Gray, Janet. (2010). State of the Evidence: The Connection Between Breast Cancer and the Environment, 6th Ed. Breast Cancer Fund: San Francisco. Available from,
Harvey, Jennifer and Michael Strahilevitz. (2009). “The Power of Pink: Cause-Related Marketing and the Impact on Breast Cancer.” Journal of the American College of Radiology, 6(1). Pp. 26-32.  Abstract:
King, Samantha. (2008). Pink Ribbons, Inc.: Breast Cancer and the Politics of Philanthropy. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press. Available from,
National Film Board. Pink Ribbons, Inc. Directed by Lea Poole. Available from,
Parkin, D.M., L. Boyd, and L.C. Walker. (2011). “The fraction of cancer attributable to lifestyle and environmental factors in the UK in 2010: Summary and conclusions.” British Journal of Cancer, 105. Pp. S77 – S81. Available from,
Schwarzman, Megan and Sarah Janssen. (2010). Pathways to Breast Cancer: A Case Study for Innovation in Chemical Safety Evaluation. California: Breast Cancer and Chemicals Policy Project. Available from,
Sweeney, E. and Killoran-McKibbin, S. (2016). “Selling Pink: Feminizing the Non-Profit Industrial Complex through Ribbons and LemonAid.” Women’s Studies, 45(5). Available from,
World Cancer Research Fund Federation. (2016). “Breast Cancer Statistics.” Available from,
World Health Organization. (2016). “Breast Cancer Prevention and Control.” Available from,

News and Actions
Over a third of us are scent-sensitive, according to new research. Some people might not even know what is making them feel lousy, with headaches and a runny nose from fragranced products.
Workers exposed to chemicals on the job, such as firefighters or painters, are more likely than most to develop sensitivity to scents.
Fragrance ingredients are among thousands of chemicals, and some contribute to cancers. Worse, they are mixed with oily chemicals that interfere with hormone actions, so can hurt child development and cause cancers of hormone-driven organs - breast, prostate etc. These chemicals, called phthalates, make the smell last longer, so pack a one-two punch. Check out weekly Cancer Prevention Tips to avoid scents (and more!).
Fracking News – in the courts, and new research
For 9 years, Jessica Ernst, a landowner in Rosebud Alberta who can light her well water on fire, has been fighting fracking, seeking health and justice. The company Encana is stone-walling in the Supreme Court, aided and abetted by a data drought. Alberta does little monitoring, and attempted to gag Ernst.
New research of childhood leukemia risk from fracking chemicals identified 1177 water pollutants and 143 air pollutants, including 55 known, probable, or possible human carcinogens. Specifically, 20 compounds had evidence of leukemia/lymphoma risk
The easily extracted, cleaner fossil fuels are gone. Risks are much greater with fracking and bitumen. Conservation and greener options are essential.
Nuclear Waste / Ontario Nuclear Phase-Out?
Nuclear waste is an unsolved, many millenia problem. In The Toronto Star, Walkom argues somewhat tongue in cheek that Ontario’s plan to store nuclear waste is a mystery, but whatever it is is ‘open, transparent and inclusive’.
With no plan in sight, Ontario nevertheless ramped up nuclear power from 51% to 58% of its electricity between 2005 and 2015, and plans to stay the course until 2040. With excess greener power, we could close Pickering. Tell Ontario to shift to greener options.
New Leadership Needed at Canadian Nuclear Safety Board
Prevent Cancer Now joins the call for new leadership at the Canadian Nuclear Safety Board after the inspectors of Canada's nuclear power plants failed inspection by the Commissioner for the Environment and Sustainable Development.

Pesticide Spraying in Calgary
If you are in Calgary, ask your Councillor to restrict pesticides to least-toxic, most sustainable options. Also, include health and environmental expertise in review of IPM.
PCN responded to a doctor’s concern that his grandchildren might slip on dandelions and that Calgary should therefore spray “safe” 2,4-D 
Please, let’s not rely on herbicide. Re: “We have herbicide — let’s use it,” Letter, Oct. 19.
I’d ask Dr. Gillespie please to reconsider his 2,4-D prescription for weeds in Calgary parks.
Hearkening from the era of DES, DDT and thalidomide, 2,4-D is not “safe.” Health Canada says it poses “acceptable risk.” The hazards include cancer, and reproductive, neurological and other harms, with Canadian studies finding the chemical in blood, urine and semen.
Ontario restricts pesticides for landscaping, including 2,4-D. When asked, Ottawa emergency pediatricians are more concerned with brain injury from heading soccer balls, especially at younger ages. They reported that summertime sports injuries generally occur from collisions rather than falls, and note that children slip on wet grass as easily as dandelions.
There are better answers — knowledgeable organic turf care practices are effective and sustainable; simply mowing and using synthetic chemical pesticides is not.
Chrysotile Asbestos
In a letter sent on October 19, 2016, Canada’s Minister of the Environment, Catherine McKenna, says “Canada will review its position regarding the listing of chrysotile asbestos” as a hazardous substance under the Rotterdam Convention and “will be seeking stakeholder comments to help inform this country’s position”.
In a response to Minister McKenna, Kathleen Ruff, Founder and Co-Coordinator of ROCA (Rotterdam Convention Alliance) says she does not understand why the Government of Canada is undecided on whether chrysotile asbestos should be put on the Convention’s list of hazardous substances when chrysotile asbestos is listed as a hazardous substance in Canada by the Canadian government.
Wireless Radiation
Health Minister Philpott needs briefing on health effects of wireless radiation, and Health Canada's substandard scientific review methods. While awaiting a response to a Parliamentary Committee's recommendations for health warnings and better scientific review, concerned Canadians were shocked and disheartened to receive letters from Health Minister Philpott denying health effects. The subsequent Health Canada response to the Parliamentary Committee Report will result in no additional protections from wireless radiation until meeting a newly mentioned, impossible scientific threshold of the “totality” of the evidence. This approach is much less precautionary than previously.
More recent research strengthens the 2011 International Agency for Research on Cancer finding that radiofrequency radiation "possibly" causes cancer. Brain tumours associated with cell phones, gliomas are increasingly frequent and aggressive in adolescents and brain tumours are now the most common cancers in this age group. Meanwhile a large US research program in rodents is finding the same cancers as in humans, as well as other impacts of radiofrequency radiation.

Have Your Say on the Canadian Environmental Protection Act
The Parliamentary Environment Committee seeks input from stakeholders for its review of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. Key messages include the need for rigorous, independent science before market, and precautionary approaches. Granting the market to least-toxic, most sustainable options will drive innovation and improve health. Investor-state provisions in trade deals protect established companies, cost the taxpayer, and thwart improvements.

Prevent Cancer Now is a Canadian national civil society organization including scientists, health professionals and citizens working to stop cancer before it starts, through research, education and advocacy to eliminate preventable causes of cancer.

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