If you have an ACS member number, please enter it here so we can link this account to your membership. (optional)

ACS values your privacy. By submitting your information, you are gaining access to C&EN and subscribing to our weekly newsletter. We use the information you provide to make your reading experience better, and we will never sell your data to third party members.



Chemicals And Cancer Risk

July 5, 2010 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 88, Issue 27

After reading Rudy Baum’s editorial “Chemicals and Cancer,” I could only react with shock (C&EN, May 31, page 5). Correctly, you pointed out glaring errors with a major report from the President’s Cancer Panel and how these errors cast doubt on the thrust of the report.

However, for Baum and the American Chemistry Council to discount chemical exposure as a cancer risk via sequential exposure to “chemicals” is a grave misrepresentation of our chemical reality. We should, but as yet cannot, assess the synergistic effects of multiple chronic exposures to myriad chemicals as possibly initiating the development of cancer.

Rachel Carson clearly documented the effects of a single chemical, DDT, on certain birds but never investigated the effects of the birds’ exposure to lead (via ingestion of pellets from hunting) as increasing raptor sensitivity to DDT.

Likewise, closer to home, diabetics survive taking insulin but perhaps would thrive if big pharma were to include in the insulin the trace components present in the chemical soup released by our body’s insulin factories. Single chemical exposure at an acute level is one thing, but chronic exposure to a chemical brew is quite another.

Robert Pellenbarg
Palm Desert, Calif.

Baum’s editorial “Ganging up on Chemicals,” implies that there is no evidence that “the chemical industry is evil. Government agencies are inept. Innocent people are getting cancer and dying”(C&EN, June 7, page 5).

For evidence, talk to the parents of the many thousands of children under five years of age with cancer in the U.S. Surely, we can all give examples of government agency ineptitude—the response to Hurricane Katrina, for example.

The chemical industry is not evil, but it can cause a lot of damage from the greed or ineptitude of some of its leaders. Maybe Baum should give a measured response to the CNN program “Toxic America,” instead of the broad generalizations of his editorial.

Ignacio Tinoco
Berkeley, Calif.



This article has been sent to the following recipient:

Chemistry matters. Join us to get the news you need.