The Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (ANHE) this week sent a letter to Congress in support of the Report on Carcinogens (ROC), an annual scientific study published by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) that identifies chemicals that cause cancer.
The ANHE [http://envirn.org/] is a coalition of nursing organizations representing hundreds of thousands of nurses who believe the environment and health are inextricably connected.
The ROC is the federal government's official list of chemicals "known" or "reasonably anticipated" to cause cancer in humans. This report has been mandated by Congress since the 1970's and provides science-based, impartial information about those chemicals that can increase cancer incidence.
"As nurses, we see firsthand the devastating impact cancer can have on our patients and their families. The Report on Carcinogens is an essential tool in our cancer prevention efforts, and helps us counsel our patients on how to reduce their exposure to carcinogens," explains Katie Huffling, MS, RN, CNM, environmental health program manager, University of Maryland School of Nursing.
According to AHNE, some members of Congress are attempting to do away with the RoC.
Specifically, Rep. Denny Rehberg, (R-MT) has attached a rider to the Labor, Health & Human Services (LHHS) Appropriations bill for Fiscal year 2013 that would prevent work on the next edition of the RoC by withholding all funding for it pending completion of a review of the listing of formaldehyde and styrene in the previous edition. This would effectively halt the RoC for up to 4 years, according to AHNE.
"Infants and children are particularly vulnerable to exposure to chemical pollutants due to their periods of rapid growth and development," says Susan Van Cleve, DNP, CPNP-PC, PMHS, president, National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners. "The [RoC] informs pediatric nurse practitioners about cancer causing chemicals and assists them in taking steps to reduce exposures and protect children's health,"
According to AHNE, a growing body of science shows some chemicals can trigger health impacts even at very low doses. Furthermore, when exposures happen early in life, they can trigger conditions resulting in illness like cancer manifesting years or even decades later, and even obesity. The RoC examines this new emerging science on health hazards for some chemicals and is an essential tool in preventing cancer.
Some chemicals listed in the RoC are in products used in clinical settings, schools, homes, and child care centers. For example, formaldehyde, deemed a carcinogen in the latest RoC, is found in a broad range of products. It's linked to an increased risk of leukemia, and exposure to formaldehyde poses a threat to the health of U.S. children. When such threats are identified, through scientific reports such as the ROC, can reduce children's exposure and protect their health.
The RoC is especially important to communities of color, who are disproportionately impacted by toxic chemicals, including carcinogens, notes Adelita G. Cantu, PhD, RN, National Association of Hispanic Nurses.
"Communities must have every tool they need to identify chemicals released in their environments that can cause cancer," Cantu emphasizes. "I see children playing in toxic water near the U.S.-Mexico border. The people deserve to know if that water contains carcinogens so they can try and halt contamination, and exposure."