Radon Exposure is the Second-Leading Cause of Lung Cancer

radon exposureJanuary is National Radon Month for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (www.epa.gov). Radon is an odorless, colorless gas which can accumulate and become trapped in your home. Many people are exposed to high levels of radon without even knowing it. Radon exposure has been linked to lung cancer and is estimated to be responsible for more than 20,000 lung cancer deaths each year.

Many believe that radon exposure is only a problem in certain countries. However, the EPA notes that high levels of radon can be found in every state in the United States. While it may only be found in certain areas, the only way to know if you and your family are safe is to perform a simple and inexpensive in-home radon test.

Radon can enter your home from the ground soil that your house is built on and can even contaminate water wells. Just because your neighbor has tested clear for radon buildup, that does not mean you are safe. Testing is recommended for every home.

According to former United States Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona, “Indoor radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, and breathing it over prolonged periods can present a significant health risk to families all over the county.” Dr. Carmona continued, “It’s important to know that this threat is completely preventable. Radon can be detected with a simple test and fixed through well-established venting techniques.”

While some scientists dispute the toll radon is taking on the United States public, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Lung Association and the American Medical Association have all agreed with current estimates that every year thousands of people die from lung cancer from exposure to radon.

Radon Tests Are Easy and Inexpensive

Special test kits are required to detect radon in your home because of its odorless and colorless properties. The kits can be purchased at your local hardware store or at many nationwide chain home improvement stores. Once you follow the instructions and the test is complete, you simply mail the kit to back to the manufacturer for the results.

State and local governments are also testing schools and public housing developments for radon levels and will take appropriate corrective action if necessary.

If higher-than-recommended radon levels are found in your home, a radon mitigation system can be put in place to remove any danger to you and your family. It is recommended that a certified or qualified radon mitigation contractor be used to address your radon issue as improper repair systems can actually make the problem worse.

Visit the EPA at http://www.epa.gov/radon/ for additional information on detecting and fixing radon issues in your home.

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Former Lead Factory Sites Pose Health Risks to Children

EPASeveral states are undergoing investigations and cleanup efforts at sites which were identified to be former lead factories. Some of these sites are located in what are now residential neighborhoods. Under direction of the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, the sites are being tested, monitored, or cleaned up in order to assess and reduce risk to the public, especially where children are concerned.

Known as the EPA’s national smelter initiative, the issue was first brought to light through an investigation by USA TODAY. The paper examined public documents and found 464 potentially toxic sites in the United States which had not been investigated thoroughly by the EPA. The alarming facts that the newspaper found include the potential harm to thousands of families now living on the former site of plants which produced toxic waste.

Lead poisoning can be extremely harmful to children, who are more likely to be playing in the dirt of a former plant site. Even small amounts of lead or lead dust, when ingested by children, can cause severe brain injury, including attention disorders and additional health and cognitive issues.

The investigation is ongoing. Some of the sites still need further investigation while some have cleanup projects already scheduled. Here is a sampling of some of the sites uncovered by the newspaper:

  • Several Detroit neighborhoods, which were earlier declared clear by the State of Michigan, are now on the EPA list for further investigation spurred by hazards found on a previous factory property.
  • There are at least six sites in New York City which have been identified as areas of concern with at least six others which still require investigation.
  • Soil tests are being performed on soil from residential neighborhoods in New Jersey, Maryland and Georgia.
  • Investigators discovered severe arsenic and led contamination in a yard in Portland, Oregon, with other homes in the neighborhood also likely to be effected.
  • In Ohio, three sites will likely be cleaned up, while several other sites show risk and are to be further investigated.
  • Two sites in Chicago are to be cleaned up, with eight others set for additional studies.

Previously, the EPA provided $1.26 million to perform cleanup of homes in Edison, New Jersey and for cleanup efforts at a condominium complex in Newark, New Jersey. The funds will also be used to clean up lead from an old smelter site in New York City which is now the site of a park and some athletic fields.


Spray Tan Chemical Linked to Cancer

Spray-on tans are all the rage; however, a new study shows a strong, potential link between inhalation of these chemicals and the development of certain cancers. The active ingredient in spray-on or topical tanning products, called dihydroxyacetone, or DHA, has proven to be harmful if inhaled or ingested through the nose or mouth.

Spray Tan

The study was conducted by prominent physician, Dr. Lynn Goldman, Dean of the School of Public Health and Health Services at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Dr. Goldman warns of the potential DNA changes caused by inhalation of DHA that can lead to the development of certain types of cancer, including lung cancer. Previous studies have also raised the alarm against DHA for exacerbating the symptoms of asthma, emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD.

In the 1980s, sunless tanning, such as sunbeds, tanning creams and spray-on tans, became popular as an alternative to sunbathing and as a way to avoid the damaging effects of the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Recently, spray-on tanning has increased in popularity, with one study reporting that 10 percent of British men and 40 percent of British women have used fake tanning techniques.

The active chemical in these products, dihydroxyacetone or DHA, has been used in the cosmetics industry for nearly 30 years. However, these products have been topical only, such as lotions and creams. The DHA is applied to the skin and, through a chemical reaction with dead skin cells, turns the top layer of skin to a darker color. Because it is a chemical reaction, the color does not wash away, but rather fades gradually as the body sheds the dead skin cells; these types of fake tans usually last 3 to 5 days. DHA is not readily absorbed through the skin and has been approved for external use. This means it is not to be inhaled or ingested through the nose, lips or mucous membranes, such as the eyes. There has been little data or discussion regarding the effects of DHA entering the body. However, due to the popularity of spray-on tans, this new laboratory data stresses the importance of further, rigorous study.

Commercial spray-on tanning products carry warnings and directions for use. Those applying them should be familiar with these instructions and take appropriate precautions. In order to prevent inhalation, or inadvertent ingestion through the eyes, nose and lips, the FDA (http://www.fda.gov/) recommends that those applying DHA products, as well as those receiving applications, should wear goggles and masks. Consumers should insist on protection when using spray-on tanning products in order to prevent future health issues.


Congressman Questions FDA’s Continued Support for Harmful Pesticide in Shampoo

Congressman Edward Markey (D-Mass.), senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, last month presented a letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, calling on the FDA to issue a ban on the use of the chemical lindane in pharmaceutical products used for the treatment of head lice.

hair-liceThe issue arises due to conflicting government responses to the warnings around the chemical, which was previously used as an agricultural pesticide. Several decades ago, insecticides similar to lindane, an organochlorine insecticide in the same family as the well-known chemical DDT, were found to be dangerous to humans and the environment and were banned. Since that time, additional studies and information have linked these chemicals to several forms of cancer. In addition, lindane has been cited for its negative environmental impact. Lindane has been detected in water sources after being rinsed down drains and into waterways.

The primary use for lindane is in the treatment of head lice. Head lice are tiny parasitic insects which feed off the blood of a person’s scalp. Head lice are a common problem, especially among elementary-aged school children, spreading through contact and sharing of combs and hats. Contrary to popular belief, head lice are not a symptom of poor hygiene and can occur in any population or living situation.

The current issue raised by Representative Markey addresses the inconsistency in the governmental stand on the dangers of lindane. Lindane was banned by the EPA many years ago, yet the FDA continues to allow its use in products used primarily on children whose developing bodies are more sensitive to toxins than other populations. In 2009, the FDA did take the step of issuing a Public Health Advisory regarding the use of lotions and shampoos containing lindane but did not ban the substance.

The standard treatment for head lice has been topical ointments and shampoos containing strong chemicals which kill the lice. Many of these prescription treatments, as well as many of the over-the-counter treatments, have proven to be toxic. Often the treatment must be repeated several times, leading to increased danger. Reactions to lindane, and other strong chemicals, can include skin irritation, seizures and, in rare instances, even death.

There are other options for the treatment of head lice, including natural treatments. In fact, in a 2002 study, lindane was compared to five other head lice products and found to be the least effective treatment. Without an FDA ban of this chemical, it is important for consumers to be aware of the potential dangers of using, or having used, these products.

Study Suggests Heavy Metal in Foods, Make-Up Could be Linked to Breast Cancer

Study Suggest Heavy Metal in Foods, Make-Up Could be Linked to Breast CancerProlonged use of the heavy metal cadmium could prompt the growth of breast cancer cells, and may even fuel their ability to spread through the body, the early results of a new study suggest.

According to HealthDay, cadmium is used in a number of items, including cigarette smoke, rechargeable batteries, cosmetics, bread products, root crops and vegetables. It is also used as a farm fertilizer, and has been known to seep into soil and water supplies. Once in the body, cadmium has been noted to act like the female hormone estrogen.

Earlier research has been done to assess the reaction to high levels of cadmium, but the most recent study sought to determine prolonged exposure to low levels of the heavy metal. Maggie Louie, an associate professor of biochemistry at the Dominican University of California, stated that the study is still in its early stages.

"We are trying to figure out if it is the cadmium causing cancer or the cancer attracting the cadmium," she said. "If it is chronic exposure to cadmium that increases breast cancer risk, being aware of other exposures to estrogen and taking steps to minimize these exposures may become important."

A common toxic substance

The findings of the study indicate prolonged cadmium exposure can allow breast cancer cells to pass through the outer barrier of the breast, resulting in spreading.

Dr. Stephanie Bernik, Lenox Hill Hospital's chief of surgical oncology, concurs with the findings.

"If cadmium acts like an estrogen in our bodies, it may contribute to the development of breast cancer," she said.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, cadmium is considered extremely toxic, but is still found in the U.S. in industrial workplaces, especially in those where any ore is being processed or smelted.