This breast cancer month, we need to ask why are we still ignoring the elephant in the room?

Press Release
As we find ourselves mid-way through the global fundraising phenomena that is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, From Pink to Prevention asks ‘are environmental and occupational risk factors for the disease the elephant in the room?’ 

Given breast cancer incidence has risen by 64% since the 1970’s in the UK, why are increasing efforts to draw attention to these confounding risk factors met with an unyielding lack of acknowledgement by the breast cancer establishment which includes the government, and breast cancer charities?

From Pink To Prevention (FPTP) and the Alliance for Cancer Prevention argues that everybody, especially women who are more at risk of breast cancer, have the ‘right to know’ the up-to-date science on breast cancer which, for decades, has been linking the escalating rates of breast cancer with exposures to toxic chemicals in our homes, workplaces and wider environment along with workplaces practices such as night shift work.

This October FPTP has produced a new Tool-Kit with interactive webpage, posters and action guide and with contributions from some of the leading experts, writers and campaigners from across Europe (Belgium, France, Germany, UK), USA, Canada, Australia and the Philippines. It advocates that that it is time to move from pink to prevention, beginning by renaming the month Breast Cancer Prevention Month, as suggested by Gudrun Kemper from Breast Cancer Action Germany.

Lisette Van Vliet from the Health and Environment Alliance cites the call by the World Health Organisation for the recognition of the environmental and occupational exposures that cause cancer to be an integral component of cancer control worldwide. As Professor Andrew Watterson points out, assessments estimate that there are  at least 50% of breast cancers we can’t explain, so  a good starting place would be to remove the carcinogens, some 216 chemicals in regular commercial use, that have been linked to breast cancer.

From Pink to Prevention campaigner Diana Ward is disturbed to discover the failure of leading breast cancer charities to inform women about all the risk factors, and questions the exclusive focus on lifestyle factors (alcohol, exercise and smoking) and the 10% of cases linked to genetic factors, to the exclusion of the impact toxic chemicals are having on the health of every single one of us. Given that the vast amount of existing research into lifelong (womb to grave) exposures to environmental and occupational risk factors and the fact that breast cancer is a hormonal disease, this selective narrative could be seen as a barrier to official and public recognition of the right to know.

In her film ‘Endocrination’, Stephane Horel very effectively outlines the blocking by the chemical lobby of progressive legislation by the EU to try and control exposure to Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) – chemical which affect our body’s messenger system and so all aspects of life. EDCs have been linked to breast and other cancers as well as damaging our reproduction, growth and development. Studies have shown that these EDCs build up in human body tissue and can be detected in our blood, urine and breast milk, up to 300 different manmade chemicals have been detected in the human body.

Researchers Dr. Jim Brophy and Dr. Margaret Keith are concerned that workplace exposures can take many forms and think we should use workers’ health as a barometer for the wellbeing of the whole of society. Toxic chemicals used and produced in the workplace find their way into our general environment where they pose a threat to people of all ages. Their investigation into occupational breast cancer in Canada showed an elevated breast cancer risk for women working in agriculture and metal working, with women in both automotive plastics and food canning having an almost five-fold risk.

Toxic chemicals linked to breast and other cancers or to other illnesses and diseases have no place in our bodies. It’s not just EDCs but a host of other breast cancer carcinogens as well as physical risk factors such as shift work and ionising radiation which need to be urgently addressed. Helen Lynn, Alliance for Cancer Prevention and  From Pink to Prevention campaigner, questions why, when we know about the links between these carcinogens and breast cancer,  we aren’t asking the question why environmental and occupational risk factors for breast cancer are not included and actioned in every cancer plan and strategy?

In Europe, Women in Europe for a Common Future’s executive director Sascha Gabizon asks why primary prevention (stopping the disease before it starts) is being ignored in favour of an unsustainable and costly epidemic? Survival rates continue to fall despite increased spending. Every 6 minutes a woman dies from breast cancer in the EU.  WECF, as the women’s organisation working on health and the environment, calls on the EU for a strategy on the primary prevention of breast cancer.

Forty years ago breast cancer was a disease of the wealthier nations but now half of all breast cancers are occurring in countries which are rapidly being industrialised, such as the Philippines. Danny de Meneses from the Philippine Breast Cancer Network is very concerned about the Philippines having the highest incidence rate of breast cancer in Asia and the highest increase of 589% among 187 countries over a 30 year period from 1980 to 2010. It has the 11th highest incidence rate of breast cancer in the world.

Hilda Palmer from the Hazards Campaign thinks some Trade Unions could be doing more by taking a proactive and preventive approach to cancer caused by work. Occupational cancer should be a priority, starting by addressing the 16% of occupational cancers through the empowerment of Safety Reps to use the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) regulations.  Safety Representatives need information and support on how to hold employers to their legal duty to prevent exposure to chemical carcinogens, and how to challenge and negotiate shift patterns for all workers and night work for women which increases the risk of breast cancer.

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas thinks we still have some way to go before we take a precautionary approach to risks associated with breast cancer but quotes the US scientist Sandra Steingraber, who says “From the right to know and the duty to inquire flows the obligation to act.”

The global Pink Ribbon has become the most prominent global icon of a deadly disease according to academic and campaigner Grazia de Michele, who argues that  breast cancer is anything but ‘feminine, joyful and relaxing’. The Pink Ribbon, used to sell products, many of which themselves contain chemicals linked to breast cancer, range from cosmetics to food, jewellery, clothing and even cars and drill bits. As a result, it has ‘normalised’ the fact that thousands of women worldwide are diagnosed with and die from breast cancer. The original aim – to spur public opinion to demand political change – was deflected, some would say stolen – by a capitalist system where the combination of marketing skills and our own purchasing power can guarantee corporates unlimited ‘pink’ profiteering.

While we do not want to undermine those who gain hope, strength and a sense of community from pink ribbon fundraising, we do need to ask questions about the pink ribbon brand.  Patricia Kearns from Breast Cancer Action Quebec and adviser for the film ‘Pink Ribbons Inc’ notes the growing criticism of the trend for business to ‘cash in’ on the disease. “Pink-washing” means, on the one hand selling products to raise money for the disease while on the other, using ingredients in that product which linked to causing the disease. Breast cancer is a good cause for big corporations as women make 80% of the buying decisions but with less than 5% of the money raised spent on primary prevention and finding the root cause of the disease, questions need to be asked before hands are put into purses.

No one is saying that healthy lifestyles aren’t admirable, and encouragement to eat well and exercise is a positive thing but Challenge Breast Cancer Scotland questions why many healthy women still get breast cancer? Moira Adams bemoans the continual lecturing to women on how they are to blame for their own breast cancer with the almost exclusive focus on healthy lifestyle. This October CBCS’s message is:  Stop passing the buck to women and start taking responsibility for our polluted environment and the chemical cocktails we are subjected to on a daily basis.

Deborah Burton from Pink to Prevention campaigner thinks the ultimate responsibility for primary prevention should lie with government but that this is patently not the case. There are myriad ways in which the cancer establishment has proven its capacity in blocking any debate, recognition and action on the role of environmental and occupational factors for breast cancer. This means that as long as national cancer practices and policies continue to be so influenced by the cancer establishment, environmental and occupational risk factors will be excluded from government agendas.

Scottish Campaigner Dr. Morag Parnell asks why current trends are being slavishly accepted, given the role that industrialisation has played in its links to the growth of cancer diagnoses. We need look no further than the WHOs global cancer map. Lack of political will by governments to eliminate human exposure to such chemicals and substances already known to be carcinogenic is overlooked in favour of asking science and commerce to invent new disease detection and treatments. In themselves they are needed but they  do little to prevent exposures wherever possible, while  much money is made out of them.

Gayle Sulik from the Breast Cancer Consortium believes there is an urgent need to change the conversation around breast cancer and to ‘get real’ about this disease and to acknowledge that there is an ocean of misinformation, trivialization, and commercialization that is undermining the movement, and the breast cancer cause  itself. What’s more, pink ribbon hype diverts money and attention away from endeavours and ideas that have a greater chance of making a real difference to the diagnosed, those at risk, and the epidemic at large.

We have to acknowledge what women have already achieved in making breast cancer a national priority increasing awareness and funding for better treatment and care. But we need to move beyond the pink ribbon version of awareness. We need truth. Evidence. Action.

Tel: 07960033687

Notes to Editor:

  1. On line Tool Kit and posters: From Pink to Prevention and the Alliance for Cancer Prevention campaign has produced an online ‘tool-kit’ to help the wider public understand  the links between environmental and occupational risk factors and the obstacles that stand in the way of these risk factors being accepted and acted on by government, breast cancer charities and industry. The toolkit includes an interactive webpage, downloadable posters and a guide on how to be better informed and take action.
  2. Scientific Evidence From Pink to Prevention.
  3. EDM Early Day Motion on environmental and occupational risk factors . Caroline Lucas MP will table an Early Day Motion to Parliament calling upon the Government to act upon the urgent inclusion of environmental and occupational risk factors into all National Cancer Plans and strategies. More information on the FPTP website.
  4. FPTP is organising a Book Launch on the 31st of October in London of So Much to Be Done by Barbara Brenner. The event is support by Unison, the Alliance for Cancer Prevention and the Breast Cancer Consortium. More information here.
  5. Press release for October 2016.

Samsung lung cancer deaths were ‘occupational’

At SHARPS’ sit-in site, each pair of white rubber sleepers represents a cluster victim. Credit: Lee Ki-hwa

The lung cancer deaths of two former Samsung Electronics semiconductor factory workers have been accepted as work-related by the Korea Workers’ Compensation and Welfare Service (KCOMWEL).

The cases are the first officially recognised cases of occupational lung cancer among Samsung Electronics semiconductor workers. The ruling is expected to prove controversial, with lung cancer not included among diseases Samsung Electronics has acknowledged as linked to semiconductor work. – See more at: Cancer Hazards


European Commission crosses Parliament’s red lines on TTIP, say 65+ organisations

Over 65 civil society organisations warned European Parliament President Martin Schulz that the European Commission is failing to comply with Parliament’s 2015 Resolution on the EU-US trade agreement (TTIP). In crossing Parliament’s “red lines”, the Commission’s TTIP proposals endanger public health, the environment, and democracy.

The letter, signed by organisations representing consumers, farmers, not-for-profit health insurers, the environment, and public interest, comes ahead of the 14th round of TTIP negotiations, planned to start on 11 July in Brussels. The organizations urge President Schultz to use his influence to ensure that the Commission complies with the European Parliament’s 2015 Resolution on TTIP,

The letter highlights the findings of a new report, which demonstrates that the European Commission has crossed several dangerous red lines established by the European Parliament. The report, authored by the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), ClientEarth and the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), clarifies that the European Commission’s TTIP proposals can affect the more protective EU chemical and pesticide laws, can undermine the EU regulatory system, and fail to respect the jurisdiction of courts of the EU and Member States.

Copy of the letter can be downloaded here TTIP letter to Schulz

A preliminary analysis by the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), ClientEarth and the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) published on 7 July 2016 – A Compliance Check of the European Parliament’s TTIP Resolution -Public health, environment and democracy at risk can be viewed here.




The Alliance for Cancer Prevention reacts to the proposed EDC criteria from the EU Commission.

The long awaited and highly contested proposed criteria on endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) were announced on the 16th June by Commissioner Andriukaitis from the European Commission. But the long wait did not result in the much hoped for rigorous criteria which would protect human and animal health and our environment.

The proposed criteria have been called ‘shameful’, ‘astounding’ and woefully inadequate by the many scientists  and organisations who have lobbied for binding control of EDCs and proper legislation for the last 3 years while the process was stalled by industry lobbying and the resulting  internal EU processes.

In a series of articles for the Corporate Europe Observatory the acclaimed French Journalist Stéphane Horel outlined the massive industry lobby that sought to derail, delay and weaken the EU EDC regulations.

The disappointment and frustration at the failure of the proposed criteria to offer any protection against EDCs is palpable as they demand an impossibly high burden of proof to link EDCs to adverse human health effects, which means that few EDCs will be banned as a result. Shockingly the core underpinning principle of all EU chemicals legislation, the precautionary principle, has been totally omitted.

In over 1,300 studies EDC exposure have been linked with cancer,  infertility, reproductive disorders for both male and female, cancer, birth defects, obesity, diabetes, neurological and behavioural defects, and learning difficulties.

The EDC Free Europe Coalition, of which the Alliance for Cancer Prevention is a founding member,  strongly condemned the Commission and called on member states to: “insist on major changes because these proposals will do nothing to protect human health and environment from further harm but instead allows the pesticide and chemical industries to continue using harmful substances to which we are all daily exposed”.

We also demanded that the criteria must include the World Health Organisation definition of potential endocrine disruptors and the modification to the pesticides derogation on negligible exposure must be eliminated. See our Press Release for details.

In a letter sent today by the EDC Free Europe Coalition  calling on Environment Ministers to rectify the problematic issues to do with the criteria proposal, concern was once again expressed about the inability of the proposed criteria to protect wildlife and to address the urgent public health threat from EDCs.

A recent research paper estimated the cost to be 157 Billion euros to the EU each year from such exposures. Leonard Trasande the main author of the paper said of the proposed criteria that they were based on antiquated science and approaches to the causation of disease, and the costs in terms of health, disability and lives lost will reverberate long after this unfortunate decision.

The World Health Organisation cautiously acknowledged in its assessment of EDCs that there is: “sufficient evidence to conclude that adverse endocrine-mediated effects have occurred in some wildlife species, even if evidence of such adverse effects on human health is weak”.

But waiting for 100% evidence on harm to human health places the burden on our health and not on industry to show harmful and often fatal effects from EDCs. Chemtrust called this approach cynical and the proposal unacceptable unless it is radically improved by the Member states. If not then the European Parliament should veto it.

The Endocrine Society also questioned the high level of evidence required by the Commission stating that the EU Commission: “set the bar so high that it will be challenging for chemicals to meet the standard, even when there is scientific evidence of harm. To protect pregnant women, children and future generations from chemicals of concern, we need science-based regulation that reflects the growing body of evidence documenting this public health threat.”

So the type of evidence the Commission is aiming for could take decades to agree, as its very rare in sceince to find 100% certainty. But maybe the delay is intentional as there is speculation that weakening the EU chemicals regulation paves the way for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the United States. TTIP seeks to undermine the existing EU legislation on chemicals which offers better protection than that afforded to US citizens.

The Alliance believes that the EU Commission will be responsible for the diseases and deaths of millions by adopting these abysmally inadequate criteria. We will not see any ceasation in the epidemic of cancers related to exposures to endocrine disruptors in the home, workplace or in the wider environment. We are bitterly disappointed that the long hoped for strongly worded criteria which could finally eliminate exposure to these harmful chemicals has not been forthcoming. It is unbelievable that the EU Commission would bow to industry lobbying when our health is at stake. The costs to health care budgets will be unsustainable andmore importantly the needless suffering and pain endured by those harmed by exposure to EDCs in the workplace, home or wider environment is totally unacceptable given what we know about EDCs.

We are disappointed and concerned that the UK government has been revealed as one of the countries seeking to water down the EDC criteria from the onset. We feel there is little point in lobbying our government given their flagrant disregard for their citizen’s health and their preoccupation at getting rid of what they and industry consider ‘red tape’.

Please support our work with the EDC Free Europe Coalition and join with us in calling for proper regulation to eliminate these harmful EDCs from our homes, workplaces, wildlife and the wider environment.

A link to the EU documents –

And direct link to the Communication

Useful resources:
The EDC Free Europe site.
Cancer Hazards.
From Pan Europe a compilation of Scientific Opinions on EDCs for public information.

EDC Free Europe Coalition astounded by EU Commissions criteria on endocrine disruptors

Commission’s EDC criteria proposal: More humans will have to be harmed before action is taken.

The EDC-Free Europe coalition is astounded at and strongly condemns today`s Commission proposal for criteria to identify endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs).

The Commission proposed to identify EDCs based on an unprecedentedly high level of proof. This proposal requires such a high amount of evidence that it will be nearly impossible to identify more than a small fraction of substances posing a threat to human health and the environment from hormone disruption. The health costs of diseases associated with exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals, including infertility and male reproductive dysfunctions, female reproductive problems (endometriosis and uterine fibroids), birth defects, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and neurobehavioral and learning disorders, have been estimated at 158.4 billion Euros per year in the EU.

Press Release in full.

The Alliance is one of the founding members of the EDC Free Europe Campaign.

Call for Juncker to protect EU citizens health by choosing the right criteria for endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs).

The Alliance joined with over 65 organisations from the EDC-Free Europe Coalition to call on President Juncker and the EU College of Commissioners to make the right decision to protect us from Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) on the 15th June.

We are expecting President Juncker and his colleagues in the EU Commission to uphold obligations and lead the EU to a healthier and more environmentally sustainable future. The obligation of the EU Commission is to now decide on scientific criteria by which endocrine disrupting properties can be IDENTIFIED. This means any potential text changes beyond pure identification, such as potency or ‘hazard characterisation’ (see letter), would change the balance which the law strikes between protection of human/animal health/environment and the internal market and would be unacceptable and illegal, as per the EU court of justice ruling in December 2015.

The pesticides and biocides laws set out strict controls for EDCs and chemicals that cause cancer, change DNA and harm reproduction. But these laws still allow continued use if needed when there are no safer alternatives, so claims of major agricultural and economic disruption must be treated with caution.

At the same time, the societal impacts of health problems arising from EDCs are typically underestimated. Scientific studies show that these chemicals are very likely contributing to the increases in hormone-related diseases such as breast or testicular cancer, fertility problems, diabetes and obesity as well as learning and behavioural problems in children.

In addition to the suffering of individuals and their families, these life threatening diseases come with a cost to Europe’s health systems and worker productivity, estimated in the billions annually for just a few of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals assessed. A recent study on the “Health costs that may be associated with Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals” found that when looking at only five potentially EDC-health related effects “according to currently available literature, the socio-economic burden for the EU may be substantial, ranging between 46 – 288 billion EUR per year”.

The letter calls on those making this important decision to instill confidence in European citizens by upholding the treaty and laws and to choose a path which triggers innovation and protects health at the same time. Moving us to an environmentally sustainable, healthy, and economically vigorous future requires taking effective steps: choosing the right EDC identification criteria is one of those, and will substantially contribute to the goal of the EU’s 7th Environmental Action Programme to minimise exposure to EDCs.

Download the letter here

For more information on the campaign see here.

UK groups join with Health Care Without Harm to raise concerns about Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals in Medical Devices.


The Alliance joined with other UK charities and the European organsiation Health Care Without Harm in writing a letter to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Elizabeth Truss MP.

The letter outlines concerns about the discussions on the proposed Medical Devices Regulation in successive meetings of the Council Working Party on Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices. The discussions seek to reach agreement between the position of the Council and the European Parliament (EP) with a view to reaching an agreement by 30th June, still under the auspices of the Dutch Presidency.

One of the outstanding issues, where an agreement must be reached with the EP, appears to be the provision on the phasing-out of Carcinogenic, Mutagenic and Reprotoxic substances (CMRs) and Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) contained in medical devices. The letter draws attention to the amendment 355 to the proposed Medical Devices Regulation that was adopted by the European Parliament in April 2014. This amendment seeks to phase out CMRs and EDCs contained in medical devices when safer alternatives are available, technically feasible, and do not compromise the safety of patients. As you know, there is a growing scientific consensus about the harmful effects of these hazardous chemicals on human health.

To us, the proposed amendment has a clear merit: it meets the substitution objectives of REACH in ensuring that toxic substances are replaced by safer alternatives. It additionally provides for a derogation period that would allow the medical device industry to substitute CMRs and EDCs with safer alternatives. The groups want to join with HCWH in reiterating the call to the Council in particular to rise to the occasion in reaching an agreement that complies with the objectives of REACH, thus ensuring that in the future toxic substances are indeed replaced by safer alternatives.

It is worth pointing out that DEHP, an EDC, will be phased out under REACH and it would therefore seem inconsistent and confusing to allow continued exposure to DEHP through medical devices.

The letter can be seen here.

A recent report from HCWH on Non-Toxic Healthcare and alternatives to the EDCs Phthalates and Bisphenol A used in certain medical devices can be accessed here.

The full Healt Care Without Hram infogram can be viewed here.



International Workers Memorial Day 2016

Today is International Workers Memorial day – a global day of remembrance for all those who have died at work or because of work due to none existing or non-implemented health and safety laws, inappropriate safety procedures or equipment, employers who treat their employees as expendable with little or no respect for their lives or their health or  just through plain ignorance or neglect about the adverse impacts of processes, chemicals, pesticides or machinery.

Maybe we sometimes forget with all the focus on chemicals legislation that workers are at the front lines of usage. Whether it be in the laboratory developing new and untested ingredients, or through constant exposure on the production line, or through using a product repeatedly day in day out. Maybe by inhaling toxic chemicals, pesticides or harmful substances through the skin, nose and mouth while spraying, washing, cleaning, stirring or even being or living in the same space where toxic chemicals are used. Many handle products which leach endocrine disruptors minute by minute as part of their job or expose the developing foetus unwittingly to toxic insults because of the work they do.

We must remember that much of this work is done for below the basic minimum wage, and in countries where resources are plundered and environments and wildlife destroyed to satisfy an often unnecessary need or sometimes for just plain greed. We all need to work together to bring an end to this injustice and to protect the health of workers, citizens, consumers and save our precious wildlife and planet.

Please remember today and every day – one worker dies every 15 seconds due to occupational injury or illness worldwide.

No one deserves to die at work, no one deserves to be exposure unknowingly or unwittingly to anything which may hurt, maim or kill them or their families. We need to remember the dead and continue to fight like hell for the living.

Hash tag: #IWMD16

Website: Produced by Hazards Magazine and the ITUC – Resources, up to date information and graphics available here.

Relevant twitter handles: @hazardsmagazine @hazardseditor @ITUC @etuc_ces – only a selection of the wrodlwide action today.

ITUC Statement:

Cancer Hazards produced by the ITUC, Hazards magazine and the Alliance for Cancer Prevention: