Category archives: Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals

NGO call for EDCs to be excluded from TTIP negotiations

The ACP has joined with twenty seven NGOs in sending a joint letter to Bernd Lange MEP chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on International Trade (INTA). The committee will vote on the 28th May on whether chemicals will be included or excluded from the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership TTIP. We are seriously concerned that TTIP could weaken current public health and environment standards for toxic chemicals and impede the development of new standards.

The joint letter calls on the INTA to support the opinion of the ENVI Committee to exclude chemicals from the scope of TTIP, and to integrate this in their final resolution to be voted upon on 28 May 2015.

Only yesterday US Senate rejected the Fast Track Bill which would give President Obama Fast Track powers to rush TTIP through. Which is the first hurdle its progress through the US legislative process. News item here.

Joint Letter on TTIP and EDCs

ACP submission to the Cancer Task Force

The ACP responded to NHS Englands announcement of a new independent taskforce to develop a five-year action plan for cancer services that will improve survival rates and save thousands of lives.

Although the focus seems to be primarily on services and treatment which we agree are vital – we need the highest possible standards of care – we were very disappointed not to see environmental and occupational risk factors addressed and actioned in any of the documents referenced for the strategy. Indeed in the report, Five Year Forward View, the emphasis appears to be only on lifestyle interventions.

Although CRUK have narrowed the new cancer strategy to service provision they did acknowledge that the task force is: “A great opportunity for the cancer community to lead development of a cross-system, independent and ambitious new cancer plan……..and addressing the preventable causes of cancer will be key to seeing progress.”

We believe that unless we tackle the primary prevention of cancer i.e. stopping cancer before it starts, we are unlikely to see any improvement in the cancer epidemic. There are many barriers to action on the primary prevention of cancer; cancer is also caused by lack of political will. In our view, the biggest barrier to addressing cancer services is the lack of action on primary prevention which necessitates greater resources into services in the first place.

We sincerley hope this is a great opportunity to include the environmental and occupational risk factors for cancer into new cancer plans…without addressing these confounding risk factors we can only look forward to a cancer forever future.

Our submission can be downloaded here Submission to Cancer Task Force



Submission to EU Commission on the EDC consultation

Due to the intensive lobbying from the chemicals and pesticide industry the EU Commission missed its December 2013 deadline to set criteria for indentifying Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) – chemicals which are widely used, ubiquitous and harmful. The public consultation was launched in 2014 and closed on the 16/1/2015. Here is the ACP  submission to the EU EDC public consultation

The EDC Free Europe Coalition received 20,440 individual submissions onto its online platform Say No to Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals.

In total the EU Coommission received 27,087  responses – more information on the breakdown can be found here.

To follow and support this work please sign up to our campaign


Better regulation of endocrine disrupting chemicals the only way forward for cancer prevention.

cancer MEPs briefing

Effective regulation of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) represents an important opportunity for the primary prevention of hormone-related cancers, including breast, prostate and testicular an MEPs briefing at the EU parliament was told yesterday. The meeting was organised by MEPs Against Cancer, the Health and Environment Alliance and the Association of European Cancer Leagues and hosted by MEP Christel Schaldemose.

“Curbing exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals should become a central part of cancer prevention strategy in Europe,” said Wendy Tse Yared, Director of the Association of European Cancer Leagues (ECL). “It represents an exciting opportunity for prevention because reducing exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals in our everyday environment may stop cancers before they start.”

Dutch toxicologist Dr Majorie B.M. van Duursen said: “We need to use every possible opportunity to prevent cancer so environmental prevention is important. Hormone-related cancers, especially of those of the breast and prostate, have been increasing in recent decades. Today, breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in women in Europe, and prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men.”

Génon K. Jensen, HEAL Director, said: “Exposure to EDCs is a likely explanation of why cancers that are hormone dependent, such as many breast and prostate cancers, have been increasing in recent decades.”

MEPs Against Cancer include environmental pollutants, air quality control and endocrine disruptors as one of their key areas of action over the coming 5 yrs in order to strengthen cancer prevention policies.

The Alliance for Cancer Prevention has been calling for the recognition of the environmental and occupational risk factors for some considerable time. These risk factors must form the basis of a new cancer plan . We are very heartened to see others echoing our call and very much look forward to working towards a cancer free future for all.

The press release can be viewed here. And on the Association for European Cancer Leagues site here. And an article in The Parliament Magazine can be viewed here.




Press Release: Alliance re-echoes call for Cancer Action Plan

For immediate release

We must face the stark realisation that our cancer plans and strategies are grossly outdated. Despite gains in treatment and detection still almost 900 people will be diagnosed with cancer in the UK and about half that number will die from the disease each and every day.

What is needed is a new Cancer Action Plan which specifically addresses environmental and occupational risk factors (1) for breast and other cancers with targeted actions for those risk factors and specifically allocated funding. The plan needs to encompass social, economic and gender inequalities and would need to be rolled out across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland taking into account all countries specific cancer plans and strategies.

Current cancer strategies and plans target lifestyle factors but not ‘life circumstance’ factors. (2)  Not only do strategies and plans ignore the social, economic and gender inequalities but also the interwoven and intrinsically linked environmental and occupational risk factors for cancer. There is little or no consideration given to the fact that lifestyle factors are influenced by economic and social aspects. By not addressing these confounding risk factors, strategies to tackle cancer seek to place the onus at the feet of the individual by focusing on individual instead of institutional action.

There are many barriers to action on the primary prevention of cancer; cancer is also caused by lack of political will (3). Despite high levels calls for inclusion of environmental and occupational risk factors in all cancer plans, the cancer establishment (those involved in determining the dominant thinking from government, industry and the cancer charities and organisations on cancer) continue to maintain the status quo. The onus needs to be shifted away from the feet of individuals to the feet of the cancer establishment to stem the rising incidence of a largely preventable disease. A more balanced approach is needed from the cancer establishment.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) gives a very conservative estimate of up to 24% of all human diseases are at least in part due to environmental factors which includes chemical exposures. (4) Both the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the WHO report that the incidence of chronic disease such as cancer is now greater than that of communicable disease. Twenty six different cancers alone have been linked to occupational and environmental exposures. (5)

The Alliance calls for a Cancer Action Plan which includes:

  • Environmental and occupational risk factors (determinants) addressed as risk factors for cancer in a specific Cancer Action Plan and included in all cancer plans and strategies with definitive targets for action and appropriate allocated funding.
  • Phase out of all IARC classified Group 1 carcinogens and Group 2A potential carcinogens.
  • Targeted toxics reduction across all environments, the lived, worked and the first environment, the womb.
  • Government support for green chemistry and engineering. Hazardous substances should be replaced with safe alternatives utilising the substitution principle.
  • Elimination of all toxic and man-made chemicals which are found in breast milk and cord blood.
  • Inclusion of Just Transition principles in all toxics use reduction initiatives and product lifecycle management analysis.
  • Elimination of the future use of all types of asbestos and ensure proper management of the asbestos currently in place to protect workers from asbestos exposure and to prevent future asbestos-related deaths. (6)
  • Readdress the unsustainable costs of cancer in terms of prevention.
  • Education on environmental and occupational insults for all cancer specialists.
  • Bringing cancer policy into the 21st century, by embracing new and emerging science.
  • Use of relevant language and ensuring that references to the environment and primary prevention are universal and defined in terms of stopping cancer before it starts.
  • Factoring in environmental justice principles and the right to a clean and safe environment into all cancer plans. (7)
  • Equal consideration given to precautionary and preventive approaches to cancer alongside better treatment and care.

Considerable work has been done over the last few decades to try and get recognition for environmental and occupational risk factors but with little movement from the cancer establishment. We can only speculate why this 21st century disease is still being addressed with an 18th century solution, and question who is financially benefiting from breast and other cancers, while continuing to investigate the long-standing inaction on this issue by the cancer establishment.

Background Document: Background document for Cancer Plan

The Alliance is a multi-stakeholder group which includes representatives from: NGOs, Trade Unions, environmental and occupational health organisations, public health advocates and civil society groups, working together on cancer prevention. We aim to; challenge the existing perception of control and treatment of cancer being the only way forward; get equal recognition for primary prevention and ensure that the cancer establishment acknowledges the environmental and occupational risk factors for preventable cancers.

Tel: 07960033687

(1) Definition of environmental and occupational risk factors: Environmental and occupational risk factors are potential risk factors for cancer from exposure (including environmental, occupational and pre-birth exposure) to certain chemicals, substances, or particles or through ingestion, inhalation or absorption or to certain behavioural work patterns such as shift work which contribute to a cancer outcome by nature of their carcinogenic, mutagenic, or endocrine disrupting properties and abilities.

2. Prof. Andrew Watterson from Toxic Tour Report (London)  Summer 2013. (Soon to be on the alliance website).

3. Donner, L and Chernomas, R. The Cancer Epidemic as a Social Event. 2004  Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Manitoba.

5. Environmental and Occupational Causes of Cancer (New Evidence 2005 – 2007) Richard Clapp. Lowell Centre for Sustainable Production.

6. Zero Cancer/Occupational Cancer. International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and Global Unions.

7. Business and Human rights. A resource website. Why environmental issues are human rights issues.

Cancer Prevention: The Toxic Tour


Blue Plaque no logo copy


Cancer Prevention ~ A Toxic Tour ~ London, Saturday 29th June 12-2pm
The Alliance for Cancer Prevention and Tipping Point Film Fund in association with The Organic Pharmacy have come together around a programme of events designed to increase the debate and public awareness on the links between breast cancer, the workplace and the wider environment. These events include film screenings of PINK RIBBONS INC with discussions and a ‘toxic tour’.

The Programme for theWalk
The route will take place in green spaces, shops, outside parliament and the Emmeline Pankhurst Statue in Westminster; it will take approximately 2 hours. Starting point is at Christchurch Gardens, Victoria by the Suffragette Statue for 12 noon. We will go to the South Bank afterwards for drinks. The tour will leave commemorative blue plaques to mark our visit illustrating that cancer prevention does not live in the related tour visit sites. RSVP to: for places.

Download the information as a pdf here

From Pink to Prevention ~ what do we mean?
Despite the overwhelming presence of the Pink Ribbon and all its (global) attendant activities, environmental and occupational links to breast cancer struggle to be included in the debate. Why is this? What stands in the way of these critical elements being discussed?

As the disease reaches ‘epidemic’ proportions where more and more women face a diagnosis of breast cancer and far too many women lose their lives to the disease, are we doing the very best we can to ensure the debate addresses ALL possible causes of he disease? The time has come for all the key players – cancer charities, industry, drugs companies, the medical fraternity and government (whom many campaigners and authors describe as ‘the cancer establishment’) to recognise and acknowledge the role of environmental and occupational factors in this complex disease. This means doing something about it. The Alliance for Cancer Prevention wants to see environmental and occupational risk factors for breast and other cancers included and addressed in the National Cancer plans and strategies on cancer throughout England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.


The Alliance for Cancer Prevention
Formed in 2009, the Alliance is a multi-stakeholder group which includes representatives from; NGOs, environmental and occupational health organisations, trade unions, public health advocates and civil society groups, working together on cancer prevention. The Alliance aims to challenge the existing perception of control and treatment of cancer being the best way forward and get equal recognition for primary prevention. We work to ensure that the cancer establishment acknowledges the environmental and occupational risk factors for preventable cancers. Alliance members campaign on issues independently and together to work collectively and strategically to identify the interconnection between the environmental, occupational, social factors and the combined exposures.

Tipping Point Film Fund
TPFF supports social action, non-fiction films for cinema with an international reach. We are a not for profit co-operative raising donations from individuals, groups and organisations who believe in using the power of film to make change. Our roots are deep in the social action campaigning world where, to understand the big issues affecting all of us, you need to dive deep into the structures that underpin them. TPFF also partners with other organisations to organise events for the public, with a film and/or campaigning focus. It is supported by The Co-operative.

The Organic Pharmacy
The Organic Pharmacy was founded by Margo Marrone – a pharmacist and homeopath who first became aware of chemical overload on the human body during the 1990’s. She opened her first Organic Pharmacy store in London in 2002 to address this ever growing concern about harmful chemicals in cosmetics and built the business on the principles of honesty, integrity, purity, quality and green environmental thinking. Ten years on it is still a family run business and one that has supported campaigns addressing environmental links to breast cancer.

The ‘Toxic Tour’ Concept
No running, no fundraising- just a ‘what do you know?’ tour giving you the lowdown on why we need to tackle environmental and occupational links to a disease that affects an increasing number of women of all ages. The alternative tourist-health walk taks in parks, shops and outside parliament. It will give you a whole new perspective on how you can influence the key players in the breast cancer debate in the effort to get them to take on board a much ignored aspect – the environment around us, from our first environment the womb, through our work and lived environments. By address the issue of breast cancer prevention we will look at all cancers connected to environmental and occupational exposures.

The notion of the ‘toxic tours’ originated in the USA with tours held annually in San Francisco and the ‘bucket brigades’ which held tours to test the air quality around nearby industries which was harming community health. The tours advocate for civil rights and environmental justice. The first ‘toxic tour’ in the UK was organised by Helen Lynn and the Women’s Environmental Network (WEN) and held in London. Subsequent tours were held in Wales with WEN Wales and Scotland in conjunction with WEN Scotland. This is the second tour of this kind in London, linking environmental and occupational links to cancers in general and breast cancer in particular, again in London.

Why a ‘ toxic tour’?
Take an historic tour through the dark and murky back streets of breast cancer politics. Learn about why rates of the disease have risen by 90% over the last 40 years yet little is being done to prevent it. Gain a new perspective on why certain occupations carry with them an increased risk of breast cancer, up to 5 times the average rate. Hear about why breast cancer is a 21st century disease, an epidemic of our time and how it is related to not just our lifestyle – which accounts for less than 30%-50% of the cases – but is connected to a cocktail of toxic chemicals that begins through exposure in the womb and persists forever after – pre and post birth in our living and working environments.

Wonder why this 21st century disease is still being addressed with an 18th century solution, question who is financially benefiting from breast and other cancers and investigate the long-standing inaction on this issue by the cancer establishment. Boldly go where no one has gone before and understand what primary prevention means and how a life-long low level exposure to hormone disrupting chemicals, carcinogens, and other chemicals and substances linked to breast and other cancers need to be more widely known about and acted upon.

Speakers and Contributors

Prof Andrew Watterson (University of Stirling)
Prof. Watterson is the Director of the Centre for Public Health and Population Health Research, at the University of Stirling, Scotland where he also heads up the Occupational and Environmental Health Research Group. His interests include occupational cancer prevention, fracking and biomass hazards, regulation of hazards and risks, costs of occupational diseases, PAR and lay epidemiology. He has acted as an adviser to the World Health Organisation and is on the editorial boards of IJOEH and Environmental Health.

Dr Ana Porroche-Escudero
Ana is a dedicated activist and educator on gender and health. She has initiated workshops and campaigns on gender violence ad is fascinated by the powerful combination of activism, art and innovative methods. She is a member of the Breast Cancer Consortium Advisory Board which is an international platform dedicated to changing the conversation on breast cancer through public and scientific discussions. She is currently organising a series of sessions on Breast Cancer Awareness in Brighton and recently showed the film Pink Ribbons Inc there along with other committed activists. She is an associate tutor at the University of Sussex.

Helen Lynn (Alliance for Cancer Prevention)
Helen has campaigned on cancer prevention since 1995 and is a freelance campaigner/ researcher at Wildcard Research. She worked as health Co-ordinator for 12 years at the Women’s Environmental Network and as co-director. Helen has worked at  local, national and international levels on issues connection women’s health and the environment they live and work in. She was  co-founder of the Alliance for Cancer Prevention, which campaigns for the recognition of environmental and occupational risk  factors for cancer.

Hilda Palmer (Hazards Campaign)
Co-ordinator of Greater Manchester Hazards Centre, Chair of Hazards Campaign and facilitator of Families against Corporate Killing (FACK). Hilda organises the annual Hazards Conference which is the UK’s biggest educational and organising event for trade union safety reps and activists. Hilda works and campaigns tirelessly against injustice, and for equality, better health and safety at work, in the environment and community.

Maria Arnold (Client Earth)
Maria works at ClientEarth, leading the Healthy Air Campaign which combines work to engage communities at the local level with policy advocacy at a UK level.  Previously Health Policy Analyst at the Sustainable Development Commission, she has worked to embed sustainable policy and practices within the NHS and Department of Health, with a particular emphasis on the link between health and the environment.
She has also managed environmental and public health projects at Southwark Council.

Nick Mole (PAN UK)
Pesticide Action Network UK (PAN UK) is the only organisation that works on every aspect of global pesticide issues including threats to the environment and human health from their use. Nick is the policy officer with PAN UK. He works on UK and EU issues that includes trying to stop the use of bee toxic pesticides, encouraging London’s parks and green spaces to go pesticide free and advising the public on health issues related to pesticide exposure.

Deborah Burton (Tipping Point North South)
Deborah co-founded Tipping Point Film Fund in 2009 to provide support to theatrical feature documentaries, with integrated
campaign outreach on global issues and has worked on the breast cancer prevention issue for many years.

There are many ways to get more involved in learning about environmental and occupational links to breast cancer. Everything
from simply informing yourself better, through to thinking twice about the products you buy, to taking action, as a concerned
worker, consumer and citizen.

Read about the history, politics, economics, and social aspects of breast cancer and the health care system – Pink Ribbons,
Inc. by Samantha King is a good place to start. Breast Cancer Consortium Resources and Alliance for Cancer Prevention Resources.

Evaluate health news stories with a critical eye. Health News Review provides excellent criteria on what consumers need to
know in stories on treatments, tests, products, and procedures and why. Health News Review.

COSMETICS: Organic Pharmacy
Pay attention to what is in the products you buy—to check out cosmetics ingredients
WEN Careful Beauty list: 

CONSUMER AND OCCUPATIONAL: Alliance for Cancer Prevention
Find out about issues linking cancer to exposures in the home, workplace and wider environment
Hazards Website:
Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs):
ChemTrust / EDCs and Breast Cancer:

Think Before You Pink™, a project of Breast Cancer Action. Think Before you Pink
TAKE ACTION As well as getting more informed on all these issues you can also find out more about what your elected
representatives are doing and try asking some basic questions!

  • Ask your MP why environmental and occupational risk factors for breast cancer are NOT included in all national cancers plans and strategies right across England, Wales, Scotland Northern Ireland
  • Write to your MEP voicing your concern about the lack of proper regulation in connection with toxic chemicals such as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) linked to breast cancer in consumer products.
  • Visit the recommended websites for vital information on how you can take action and follow up campaign information.
  • Download information as PDF.

Disclaimer: Please note this tour is a purely voluntary initiative, no funding was received to run the tour or none of those involved contributed anything to the event bar their time. All the speakers are contributing freely of their time and the organisers are all volunteers.

A very big ‘thank-you’ to all our contributors taking part in our day’s events


Thought Provoking Questions Raised in Breast Cancer Debate

Pink ribbosn inc screening brighton

The Alliance for Cancer Prevention took part in a screening of Pink Ribbons Inc in Brighton on the 13th March 2013. The event organised for the Ngender seminar series by Ana Porroche-Escudero and Grazia de Michele was very well attended and there was a very thought provoking discussion afterwards.

Read the blog piece from the Ngender Seminar site below:

Thanks to all who participated in a lively and inspiring evening around breast cancer awareness. After the Pink Ribbons, Inc. film, our three panelists briefly introduced themselves, their experiences and their work.

Helen Lynn has been campaigning for 17 years for breast cancer. She believes breast cancer can be viewed as a form of violence against women; women are consigned to what could be a preventable disease as chemicals that are in everyday use remain largely untested, or even worse, they continue to be used after they have been linked to cancer. Hence, women are exposed needlessly and wilfully to chemicals which are linked to the disease. The organisation, Alliance for Cancer Prevention brings women and men together to work on these issues. More here.


Press Release: WHO/UNEP strongly endorse need to regulate as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) identified as ‘global threat’.


WHO-UNEP report

Press Release:

Immediate release

Alliance for Cancer Prevention


WHO/UNEP strongly endorse need to regulate as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) identified as ‘global threat’.

A new report from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) comprehensively reviews the state of the science on endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs).  It outlines the very serious and immediate threat to human health and wildlife from EDCs and signals the urgent need for effective regulation and testing of these chemicals.

The report estimates that as much as 24% of human diseases and disorders are due at least in part to environmental factors which include chemical exposures. “Many endocrine diseases and disorders are on the rise and the speed at which they are increasing rules out genetic factors as the sole plausible explanation”.

The Alliance is concerned that the one of the most worrying assessments from the report is that we are only looking at the ‘tip of the iceberg’ on this issue. Some 800 chemicals are known or suspected of interfering with our hormones.  Yet only a small fraction of these chemicals have been tested.  We are exposed to EDCs through everyday contact in our workplaces or homes to certain plastic products, cosmetics, furniture, computers, toys, construction materials and other products, materials and goods. We are exposed through the food we eat, the water we drink and the very air we breathe. EDCs may also be by-products formed during manufacture or use of products or through the disposal and combustion of waste.

Current testing does not take into account our multiple and cumulative exposures to EDCs and the fact that their effects cannot be considered in isolation. Their impacts on our health are being observed across our lifespan from conception in the womb through to old age. With EDCs, there are no safe levels and the report states that “thresholds” should not be assumed.

Diseases and disorders induced by exposure to EDCs during development in animal model and human studies include: Breast/prostate cancer, endometriosis, infertility, diabetes/metabolic syndrome, early puberty, obesity, susceptibility to infections, autoimmune disease, asthma, heart disease/hypertension, stroke, Alzheimer and Parkinson’s disease, ADHD and learning disabilities.

As the endocrine system regulates all our bodily functions, EDCs can interfere with normal body functions in multiple ways including impacting our metabolism, fat storage, bone development and immune system and this suggests that..” all endocrine systems can and will be affected by EDCs”, and these effects may be passed on to future generations.

The WHO report says that “‘it is critical to move beyond the piecemeal, one chemical at a time, one disease at a time, one dose approach currently used by scientists studying animal models, humans or wildlife. Understanding the effects of the mixtures of chemicals to which humans and wildlife are exposed is increasingly important”. EDCs can operate at extremely low unobservable levels and in combination. The strength of attraction of an endocrine disruptor to a hormone doesn’t equate to its strength as a chemical. Its potency or strength to affect our hormone system is dependent on many factors.

The Alliance believes the implications for public health are enormous, and for the focus of our work, cancer risk.  Currently addressed lifestyle risk factors for cancer will alone not curtail rising incidences and deaths, which will continue to escalate unless affirmative action is taken on EDCs. Neglect of the environmental and occupational risk factors for cancer skews research on cancer causation and with EDCs implicated in obesity their potential to affect even so called lifestyle factors for cancer is obvious.

The Alliance calls for an effective strategy on EDCs from the EU parliament taking advantage of the opportunity in March with the vote on EDCs in parliament. There is the potential to make history by making sure these harmful chemicals are removed from our homes, workplaces and wider environment.

How will this affect strategies to prevention cancer?

The WHO/UNEP report follows hot on the heels of another paper published in advance in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP), which is relevant in so far as the authors include the WHO Director of Public Health and the Environment.

That paper assesses “Primary prevention of cancer of environmental and occupational origin reduces cancer incidence and mortality, and is highly cost effective; in fact, it is not just socially beneficial because it reduces medical and other costs, but because it avoids many human beings suffering from cancer.”

“A substantial proportion of all cancers is attributable to carcinogenic exposures in the environment and the workplace, and is influenced by activities in all economic and social sectors. Many of these exposures are involuntary but can be controlled or eliminated through enactment and enforcement of proactive strategies for primary prevention.’

It concludes: ‘Currently, the almost exclusive focus of cancer policies in most countries is on secondary prevention (ie. early detection), diagnosis and treatment. Too little resources are devoted to primary prevention, which aims to eliminate or control exposures to environmental and occupational carcinogens… The prevailing approach is socially unfair and often unsustainable, especially in low and middle income countries.’ It adds: ‘There is sufficient evidence that primary prevention is feasible and highly effective in reducing cancer incidence.’

While the Alliance welcomes the WHO/UNEP report, we look forward to seeing action in response to the report’s call for reducing the exposures to EDCs by a variety of measures. Initiatives such as introducing Toxics Use Reduction Acts, promoting green chemistry and substitution, and a precautionary approach in regulating EDCs could be immediate responses. Coupled with a coherent and effective EU EDC strategy on banning, phase out and eliminating human exposure to EDCs. We are particularly interested in how the cancer establishment will address the issue of EDCs in all strategies to preventing cancer.

When we consider the far reaching consequences of inaction on EDCs, the platitudes in relation to other global threats pale into insignificance. Some say the threat is even greater than that of climate change, given EDCs ability to affect fertility, foetal development, the brain and behaviour. We are changing the very landscape of the womb and adversely affecting the abilities of future generations. Leaving aside the financial costs of inaction on EDCs, the human cost is unthinkable, to not act now is to be complicit.

The Alliance for Cancer Prevention is a multi-stakeholder group which includes representatives from NGOs, environmental and occupational health organisations, trade unions, public health advocates and civil society groups.

T @Cancer_Alliance
Tel: 07960033687

Notes to editor:

  1. State of the Science for Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals. Report can be downloaded here:
  2. Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) are chemicals which can affect our Endocrine System (the bodies messenger system) and other bodily functions, which co-ordinates reproduction, development, growth, mood, and what happens in our cells to help our bodies and organs function normally.
  3. Current risk factors for cancer include: tobacco, diet and obesity, infections, radiation (both ionizing and non-ionizing, up to 10%), stress, lack of physical activity, hereditary genes, physical agents, chemicals, and hormones.
  4. Environmental and occupational risk factors are potential risk factors from exposure to certain chemicals, substances, or particles (either occupational or environmental) and absorbed in utero (pre birth) or through breathing, touching, and eating, which contribute to a cancer outcome by nature of their carcinogenic, mutagenic or endocrine disrupting abilities.
  5. Espina C, Porta M, et al. Environmental and Occupational Interventions for Primary Prevention of Cancer: A Cross-Sectorial Policy Framework. Environ Health Perspect.  Advanced publication here.
  6. Dr. Theo Colborn’s letter to President Obama, watch it here.
  7. Toxic Use Reduction. Replacing toxic substances with safer alternatives or processes.
  8. Sign the petition to get EDCs out of consumer goods: here


Occupational breast cancer, a much neglected gender issue

Alliance for Cancer Prevention

Press release
Embargo until 00.01 Friday 7th December 2012

Occupational breast cancer, a much neglected gender issue

London, UK (December 7th 2012)

New research has serious implications for elevated rates of breast cancer and reproductive disorders among women working in the plastics industry in the UK. (1) The paper published in the journal New Solutions supports recent findings by the Canadian researchers, Dr Jim Brophy and Dr Margaret Keith. Their epidemiological study found a five-fold elevated breast cancer risk for premenopausal women working in the plastics industry in Canada. (2)

The New Solutions study, carried out in association with the University of Stirling, Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers and the National Network on Environments and Women’s Health, did a review of the toxicology, epidemiology, industrial hygiene literatures in conjunction with qualitative research looking at occupational exposures for the plastics industrie’s largely female workforce.

The review revealed the body burdens of women working in the industry have much higher levels of hormone disrupting chemicals such as BPA, phthalates, styrene and acrylonitrile than the general population.  These chemicals are all used in plastics production and some can leach out of the products over time, further affecting women and children’s health.

But the real impact on women workers in the UK is harder to assess.  For the 200,000 workers reported by Professor Andrew Watterson to be working in the UK plastics industry, there is no available data break down by gender. (3) Given the serious implications for women workers highlighted in this research, this further illustrates the serious lack of attention and consideration paid to women’s occupational health in the UK.  There is also obvious significance for other sectors where women work with BPA and other endocrine disrupting chemicals.

Breast cancer rates in the UK have risen by 90% over the thirty year period 1971 – 2010 according to the ONS. (4) Yet occupational and environmental exposures are continually left out of the picture when risk factors are addressed.

The alliance believes a tipping point has been reached with the growing and compelling body of evidence linking breast cancer to life-time and pre-birth exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals. Failure to act now is to consign women to face elevated breast risk by working in environments where they are exposed daily to a cocktail of carcinogenic, mutagenic and endocrine disrupting chemicals manufacturing products for consumption. This is just not acceptable.

Current EU work on reviewing the strategy and criteria for identifying ED chemicals and substances needs to be informed by this research and take into account women’s workplace exposures. (5)

The Alliance for Cancer Prevention thinks that this is not just an occupational issue, it is a social issue and a public health issue but predominantly it should be a gender issue. We need to get better at making the connections between environmental, occupational and social issues.

While there has been considerable progress in eliminating chemicals like BPA from baby products, the fact remains that women are still being exposed to EDCs in the workplace.  When it comes to EDCs, risk regulation does not protect women workers or future generations. Many women work in the early stages of pregnancy and while breast feeding, unfortunately a women’s body burden can be passed on to the develop foetus and unwittingly through breast milk.

Maybe the issue needs reframing in terms of exposure at work being an unwarranted and preventable assault on women’s bodies that prevents them from reaching the highest attainable standard of health. Through CEDAW, women as workers have an enshrined legal right to protection of their health and safety in working conditions, including the safeguarding of the function of reproduction. (6)

The take home message for women as workers, citizens and consumers is, there are no safe levels of EDCs.

Alliance for Cancer Prevention

Facilitator Helen Lynn m: 07960 033 687



Notes to editor

(1)     DeMatteo R, et al. “Chemical Exposures of Women Workers in the Plastics Industry with Particular Reference to Breast Cancer and Reproductive Hazards”. New Solutions, Vol. 22(4) 427-448, 2012

(2)     J. T. Brophy et al., “Breast Cancer Risk in Relation to Occupations with Exposure to Carcinogens and Endocrine Disruptors: A Canadian Case-Control Study,Environmental Health 11(87) (2012): 1-17, doi: 10.1186/1476-069X-11-87.

(3)     Chemical exposure at work is putting Scottish plastic workers at risk of breast cancer. Stirling University Press Release.

(4)     Office for National Statistics. Breast Cancer: Incidence, Mortality and Survival, 2010.

(5)     How the European Commission addresses challenges posed by endocrine disruptors. 

(6)     Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against women. (Article 11)  UK ratified the convention in 1986.

(7)     Endocrine disrupting chemicals are substances that alter one or more functions of the endocrine system (the bodies messenger system) and consequently cause adverse health effects in an intact organism, or its progeny, or (sub) populations. (WHO definition).

(8)     Environmental and occupational risk factors are exposures (either occupational or environmental) through air, soil, or water or direct contact with chemicals or substances which contribute to a cancer outcome by nature of their carcinogenicity, mutagenicity or endocrine disrupting abilities and properties.

Press Release: Dramatic shift from regulation to elimination called for in light of increased occupational breast cancer risk

A dramatic policy switch to eliminate exposure to Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) must be the main focus of the EU’s EDC strategy (1) currently being reviewed in order to address the shocking levels of breast cancer caused by work. The Alliance for Cancer Prevention demands a refocus of the EDC strategy in the wake of new research which shows working in certain jobs can elevate women’s breast cancer risk. The international case control study (2),  led by the University of Stirling’s Occupational and Environmental Health and Safety Research Group (OEHRG) found that women working for 10 years in jobs classified as highly exposed increased their breast cancer risk by 42 per cent.

Study authors Dr James Brophy and Dr Margaret Keith said of the results: “Diverse and concentrated exposures to carcinogens and hormone disrupting chemicals in some workplaces can put workers at an increased risk for developing cancer.”

Risk factors were especially high for those pre-menopausal women working in the automotive plastics and food-canning sectors, with up to five times higher risk than those in the control groups. The study looked at cumulative exposure for women which started before menarche, through first full term pregnancy, onto menopause and post menopause.  The occupational sectors studied were farming, plastics, food canning, metal working and bar/casino/racecourses in southern Ontario, Canada. (5)

Professor Andrew Watterson, head of the OEHRG at Stirling University and co-author of the study said: “Many workers face multiple exposures to chemicals, not only from their employment, but from their everyday environment. Many of the women included in the study were exposed to a virtual ‘toxic soup’ of chemicals. Untangling work and wider factors in the possible causes of breast cancer is an important global issue”.

Likely substances forming the ‘toxic soup’ included: pesticides use in farming and food production; plasticisers, flame retardants, phthalates, BPA, styrene, and vinyl chloride used in the automotive plastics industry; second hand tobacco smoke (pre-smoking ban) and shift working in bars and racecourses; and solvents and PAH’s in metal work industries.

Many of these substances are known or suspected carcinogens, mutagens and endocrine disrupting chemicals. (6) Cumulative exposure to EDCs in particular has been implicated in elevated risk for breast and other cancers, reproductive disorders, early puberty, immune system dysfunction, birth defects and neurological effects. EDCs have been shown to act cumulatively, in combination and at extremely low levels.

Helen Lynn, facilitator for the Alliance said: “The situation is no different in Canada than it is in the UK. This is not just an occupational issue, we as consumers are perpetuating the problem. Consigning women to face an increasing breast risk by working in environments where they are exposed daily to a cocktail of carcinogenic, mutagenic and endocrine disrupting chemicals to manufacture products for consumption is just not acceptable. Workplace regulations don’t appear to cover for endocrine disruptors. The UK government and cancer establishment is complacent due to its inaction. Ignorance is bliss and efforts to regulate EDCs and mixtures of EDCs are undermined by a focus on regulating risks instead of taking a hazard based approach to these substances, to which there are no safe levels.”

Talking about the research Dr Keith reflected that study could also have wider implications for society as a whole. We may be exposed to many of these same cancer-causing and endocrine-disrupting chemicals on a daily basis, albeit likely at much lower levels. The study also points to the need to re-evaluate occupational and environmental exposure standards, keeping in mind that there may be no determinable safe levels to cancer-causing or hormone-disrupting chemicals.

The Alliance for Cancer Prevention believes a turning point has been reached with this study, and we must heed the warning.  Lifestyle or genetic factors alone cannot be blamed for the increasing rise in breast cancer. Other factors are at play such as occupational and environmental exposures and we need to include these as risk factors when strategising ways to prevent this disease. No women should have to deal with ever present risk of breast cancer because of the work she does.

The Alliance for Cancer Prevention demands an urgent refocus of the EDC strategy to eliminate exposure to EDCs. We call on the UK government to support a hazard’s based approach to identification and assessment of EDCs including mixtures of EDCs across all exposures in the workplace and for the public in general.


 The Alliance for Cancer Prevention is a multi-stakeholder alliance of trade unions, public health advocates, civil society and environmental NGOs in the UK groups campaigning on cancer prevention with the aim of getting recognition for the environmental and occupational risk factors for cancer. (9)

Prof: Andrew Watterson: 01786 466283 or 07 563 195 904.
Helen Lynn 07960 033 687

Notes to Editor:

  1. EU Commission Strategy for Endocrine Disruptors and Draft report on theProtection of Public Health from Endocrine Disruptors.
  2. Study available to download from here: Breast cancer risk in relation to occupations with exposure to carcinogens and endocrine disruptors: a Canadian case–control study
  3. Notation: Brophy, J., Keith, M., Watterson, A., Park, R., Gilbertson, M., Maticka-Tyndale, E., Beck, M., Abu-Zahra, H., Schneider, K., Reinhartz, A., DeMatteo, R., & Luginaah, I. (2012). “Breast cancer risk in relation to occupations with exposure to carcinogens and endocrine disruptors: A Canadian case control study.” Environmental Health.
  4. The case control study, involving 1006 women with breast cancer and 1146 without the disease, revealed that women who worked for 10 years in jobs classified as highly exposed increased their breast cancer risk by 42 per cent.
  5. The study found several occupational sectors in which there was elevated breast cancer risk details can be found on the Press release from Stirling University
  6. State of the Art Report of Endocrine Disruptors by Kortenkamp et al.
  7. Endocrine disrupting chemicals are substances that alter one or more functions of the endocrine system (the bodies messenger system) and consequently cause adverse health effects in an intact organism, or its progeny, or (sub)populations. (WHO definition).
  8. A summary of the research findings by the National Network on Environments and Women’s Health.
  9. Environmental and occupational risk factors are exposures (either occupational or environmental) through air, soil, or water or direct contact with chemicals or substances which contribute to a cancer outcome by nature of their carcinogenicity, mutagenicity or endocrine disrupting abilities and properties.