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Cancer remains a devastating health crisis four decades after the declaration of war on the disease. While progress has been made in decreasing some types of cancer, the grim reality is that 44% of men and 38% of women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes. Cancers strongly associated with exposures to environmental chemicals are rising dramatically, especially in children and teens. Meanwhile, products continue to be designed with chemicals known to cause cancer, and the production of carcinogens continues to expand globally. Most health researchers and practitioners still pay little attention to the role of hazardous chemicals in causing cancer, even though the US President’s Cancer Panel recently declared: “the true burden of environmentally induced cancer has been grossly underestimated.” At the same time, a quiet revolution in green chemistry is underway. Companies, governments, scientists, and advocacy groups are creating, using, and promoting safer chemicals and products. Some US states are collaborating to advance green chemistry. Some industry sectors are developing alternative products and processes that do not use carcinogens and other toxic substances. But these hopeful efforts are rarely seen as an important component of disease prevention. They are not linked to cancer advocacy or to the large, well-funded but so far ineffective “war on cancer.” An innovation agenda for scaling up green chemistry can be a crucial path for cancer prevention and at the same time presents exciting potential synergies with the urgent need to reduce carbon-based fuels that drive climate change.
DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed by speakers and moderators do not necessarily reflect the official policies or views of Public Health Ontario, nor does the mention of trade names, commercial practices, or organizations imply endorsement by Public Health Ontario.
Presenter: Dr. David Kriebel
David Kriebel received his master’s degree in physiology/occupational health (1983) and doctorate in epidemiology (1986) from the Harvard School of Public Health. He did post-doctoral work on exposure assessment for epidemiology with Dr. Tom Smith at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, and spent a year as a scholar in residence at the Center for the Study and Prevention of Cancer in Florence, Italy, on a Fulbright Fellowship. Since 1988, he has been on the faculty of the Department of Work Environment, University of Massachusetts Lowell, where he holds the rank of full Professor. Dr. Kriebel is also the director of the Lowell Center for Sustainable Production, which collaborates with industries, government agencies, unions, and community organizations on the redesign of systems of production to make them healthier and more environmentally sound. Dr. Kriebel’s research focuses on the epidemiology of occupational injuries, cancer, and non-malignant respiratory disease.
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