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Speakers from l to r, Patti Woods, Karen Joy Miller, and Laura Weinberg

A Manhasset breast cancer survivor braved poor driving conditions after a nor'easter on Tuesday night, Oct. 25, to hear speakers at the Port Washington Library discuss cancer prevention. Having just finished chemo and radiation this past June, she wanted to hear what to eat and drink to help stop a reoccurrence of cancer. However, the speakers spent only a few minutes out of an hour and a half discussing how to prevent cancer in adults. The topic of their presentation was primarily prevention of cancer in children because those tumors found in adults, they believe, started much earlier in a person's life. In fact, the speakers advocate that money and research should be directed towards prevention of breast cancer, not just a cure. They feel breast cancer is preventable and not caused primarily by genetics as widely believed. Cancer is caused by chemicals in what you eat and drink and also by chemicals in pesticides, plastics, cleaners, and many other commonly used substances, they stated.

The speakers, sponsored by the Port Washington Library Health Advisory Council and a Port Washington group called Grassroots Environmental Education, were: Patti Wood, executive director of Grassroots Environmental Education; Karen Joy Miller, founder and president of the Huntington Breast Cancer Action Coalition (HBCAC); and Laura Weinberg of Great Neck Breast Cancer Coalition (GNBCC). The time they spent talking can be divided into three areas- 1-Describing who they are which includes their expertise, and why they became active in preventing breast cancer, 2- Ways of preventing cancer, 3- Reasons why the focus should be on prevention not just a cure. They also distributed comprehensive reading material, some of which can be found on their websites: www.grassrootsinfo.org, www.hbcac.org, www.preventionisthecure.org.

The speakers maintain that preventing cancer means not using chemicals that can cause cancer. When there was spraying for mosquitoes during the West Nile scare a few years ago, Grassroots campaigned to stop the spraying because the spray contained estrogen. They also advocate not using pesticides, herbicides, and many cleaning fluids. Port Washington School District now uses no pesticides, herbicides or cleaning products that contain possible toxic chemicals in the schools. This was due in part to the educational outreach of the Grassroots organization. Cooking foods in plastic containers in the microwave can cause the leaching of chemicals in the plastic into food, the speakers stated It was also stated that you should not use food and drinks from plastic containers with the numbers three, six or seven in the triangle at the bottom of the container. It was added that eco-safe paint from Benjamin Moore is less toxic.

It was explained that chemical exposure is more dangerous for children because they are developing and often they put objects in their mouth, making the danger of toxic exposure is more likely in children. A half hour DVD, "Our Children At Risk," distributed by Grassroots, presents four interviews with experts on the effects of environmental toxins in children. They argue that the burden of proof for manmade chemicals introduced into the environment should be that they do no harm rather than the existing pattern which is for researchers to prove that a chemical causes harm to have it removed from use. It was stated that political action is necessary in Congress to change the laws so that the burden of proof is on chemical makers to prove first that their product causes no harm before their use is allowed. (The DVD also has several scenes around Port Washington.)

In another area of the country, a California group has a campaign "Rethink the Pink," to promote breast cancer prevention. At the library Grassroots showed part of a video that they are preparing on the importance of spending money on cancer prevention. In the video cancer prevention researchers explain why cancer prevention research is paramount. All the speakers stated that money goes mainly for research for cancer cures rather than prevention because the drug industry, a powerful lobby, benefits. As part of GNBCC's focus on spending money for research on prevention of cancer, they award scholarships to two Great Neck South High School students from the science research program each year. This year the two students, who also compete in the Intel competition, spent time doing research on cancer prevention at Tufts with university researchers using lab animals. Another study in progress by professional researchers deals with females, ages 6 to 21, to learn about the environmental assault on mammary glands.

The statistics make a compelling case. In our bodies are about 700 man-made chemicals. Each year there are 9,000 new cases of childhood cancer, 375,000 cases of asthma, and a half million children with learning disabilities.


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