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[greenyes] Cancer Risk to Children
New York Times -- 3/4/03
Agency Says Children's Risk Is Higher for Some Cancers

"After assessing the scientific research, the Environmental Protection
Agency said today that when compared with adults, children younger than 2
faced a tenfold risk of developing cancer if they were exposed to some
"The substances, known as mutagens and used in some industrial processes,
cause cancer by damaging DNA. Because the E.P.A. has long known about the
toxicity of certain kinds of mutagens, the agency has moved to ban their
"The conclusion was part of a draft report that represented the agency's
first try at assessing children's risk to cancer-causing agents. The draft
will be subject to public comment and scientific peer review.
"Environmental health dangers to children have been the center of
contentious scientific and policy debate over the last six years, resulting
in a push for more development-focused cancer studies. Most cancer research
has historically centered on adults, with most of the data collected through
occupational exposure and tests on adult animals.
"But children ages 2 to 15 have a cancer risk three times that of adults.
The E.P.A. says it is waiting for additional research before determining
whether children are at increased risk from other carcinogens.
"The draft guidelines for children, which were released today for comment
and review, are part of a broader revision of E.P.A.'s cancer-risk
guidelines, first introduced in 1986. Risk assessments are a contentious
topic for the agency, which has faced criticism from industries and
environmental groups for its estimates.
"'There is so much controversy around these risk assessments,' said William
H. McFarland, the agency's acting deputy administrator for science.  `You're
overstating the case. You're understating the case. They are unrealistic.
They are clear enough to take action.'
"As scientific understanding and computer modeling become more
sophisticated, the E.P.A. is modifying its guidelines to go beyond
"one-size-fits-all" analysis. For example, as part of the general
assessment, the agency is encouraging a more descriptive approach to
characterizing a substance's cancer-causing potential. For example, the
report said, scientists should emphasize whether the risk comes through
breathing, ingesting or touching a carcinogen. As part of the effort, the
agency is looking at sensitive groups, such as children, people with
diabetes and the elderly.
"Risk assessment has two main components: how a substance hurts the body,
and the probability of coming into contact with that substance. In trying to
more accurately assess the risks for different groups, the E.P.A. is
adopting procedures that incorporate elements of biology and lifestyle.
"In the past, cancer risk assessments might have focused only on how a dose
of toxic chemical might affect the human body. The newer guidelines
encourage the agency's scientists to consider other factors, including that
children spend more time outside, that they often put their hands in their
mouth, and that they eat, drink and breathe in greater proportion to their
body weights than do adults. At the same time, children are less susceptible
to occupational cancer risks.
"To be sure, there are many categories of carcinogens, and children are not
at increased increased cancer risk from all of them. Because mutagens damage
DNA, children are more at risk because as they grow, their cells divide more
frequently than those of adults, perpetuating that damage. But for other
substances, such as chloroform, the E.P.A. has determined that children are
as likely or less likely to get cancer because of the way it affects
Peter Anderson
4513 Vernon Blvd. Suite 15
Madison, WI 53705
Ph:    (608) 231-1100
Fax:   (608) 233-0011
Cell    (608) 438-9062
email: anderson@no.address

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