11. “Cancer and the Environment”

by Project Censored
Published: Last Updated on

More than 53 million persons (over 25 percent of the U. S. population) will develop some form of cancer in their lifetimes, and approximately 20 percent will die from it. The rate of increases in cancer deaths is more rapid than the rate of increases in population. Chemical carcinogens that have been shown to be health hazards to the workers employed by industry have been publicized by the media. However, each of these incidents has been treated as an isolated accident instead of as a part of a long-term chronic threat to the nation’s health.

The consensus in the scientific community is that most human cancers are environmental in origin and therefore preventable. Also, that the U. S. population has been–and is being — continuously exposed to countless known and unknown chemical carcinogens in their air, water, and food.

The 100 billion dollar a year U. S. chemical industry produces 1,000 new chemical compounds a year. This is in addition to the 34,000 chemical substances and 2 million chemical mixtures already on the market. Very few of these mixtures, and almost none of the chemicals, have been tested-the potential toxicity risks could be substantial. Potent new chemical agents are being synthesized and introduced into commerce and the workplace, generally without prior adequate testing for carcinogenicity or for other adverse public health and ecological effects.

The failure of the media to see the chemical carcinogen problem as a serious health threat to the entire U. S. population instead of as isolated incidents, qualifies this story for nomination as one of the “best censored” stories of 1977.


The Progressive, February,1977, p. 15, “Chemical Catastrophes,” by Daniel Zwerdling.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, March, 1977, p. 22, “Cancer and the Environment,” by Samuel S. Epstein, M. D.