What You Are Not Being Told About Chronic Diseases

Ask, “To whom can I look to for good information about protecting my health and my children’s health?” Three answers spring to mind: my physician; health publications and websites; and government agencies.

Unless you are lucky, you can forget about the first – your family physician or pediatrician or obstetrician. According to a nation-wide poll conducted by the University of California San Francisco Medical School, fewer than 20 percent of physicians talk to their patients about damage to their health from common toxic chemicals. It could be useful to ask your physician for advice on this topic: you might get lucky.

Although there may be a publication with pertinent information, I haven’t found it. (If you know of one or more, please let me know.) Prevention magazine and WebMD magazine (found in the waiting area of most physicians and testing labs) have zero information about toxic chemicals. The websites of AndrewWeil, The National Wellness Institute (see “Six Dimensions of Wellness”) and the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition), contain no mention of toxic chemicals.

Are U.S. health agencies informing people about cancer risks from chemical toxicants in the environment? Don’t hold your breath for timely risk information. Consider that it was 30 years before DDT was banned. More staggering is the story of prenatal x-rays. A physician, Dr. Alice Steward, in the 1950s was concerned by the rising incidence of childhood cancers in England. Her investigation disclosed the fact that the majority of children who had died from cancer had mothers who had been X-rayed when pregnant. She published her findings in the British journal Lancet in 1956. The result: it was 25years before the British and American medical establishments abandoned the practice of X-raying pregnant women! It took decades for federal agencies to warn people that smoking strongly contributes to lung cancer and heart disease.

It’s a mixed bag with regard to our U.S. medical agencies. The American Cancer Society’s work is all about treatments and support groups, and nothing about prevention. The National Cancer Institute topics include prevention, genetics, and causes, but the website contains only minimal information about toxic chemicals as a cause. Fortunately, there is one organization that is on the ball and not 25 years late to the ball game. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences works to discover how the environment affects people in order to promote healthier lives. Its work covers eight non-health conditions and diseases, and a dozen environmental agents of such conditions. Its 2011 twelfth report on carcinogens lists about 70 chemicals known to be human carcinogens, and about 150 reasonable anticipated to be human carcinogens.

Fortunately, there are at least a dozen non-governmental organizations that work to discover emerging health hazards, exert pressure on governmental agencies, and educate people via their websites. They are listed in the back of my book, Healthy Living in a Contaminated World.

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