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BROWSE TILL 10:00 P.M. MONDAY thru FRIDAY Now In Our 13th Yoar of :orifice to Austin GARNER AND SMITH-1 Bi lfrSTORE 2116 Guadalupe Austin, Texas 72705 477-9725 tt at Cancer as a social disease Austin “Cancer in the last quarter of the 20th Century,” says Dr. Umberto Saffiotti, associate director for carcinogenesis at the National Cancer Institute, “can be considered as a ‘social disease’ whose causation and control are rooted in the technology and economy of our society.” The World Health Organization estimates that 75 to 90 percent of human cancer is traceable to environmental causes that could be controlled. So much for the argument that environmental concerns are solely a middle-class, white issue. In the United States, black men have the highest incidence of cancer. They’re the ones who work closest to industrial pollutants. Approximately 700 to 1,000 new corn-, pounds are introduced in this country each year, and yet there’s no legal requirement that chemicals other than drugs undergo 12 The Texas Observer IReflections full-scale safety testing in the absence of prior evidence that they are harmful. In effect, it’s up to the government and us to prove to the manufacturer that his product is going to hurt us, rather than the other way around. And all too often, government agencies, such as the Food and Drug Administration or the Department of Agriculture, are more concerned with protecting the economic interests of the drug dealer or the farmer than they are in looking out for the health of the public. has introduced a bill, the Toxic Substance Control Act of 1975, which would require the testing of potentially dangerous chemicals and would limit or prohibit the use of dangerous substances before they become serious health or environmental threats. “The basic problem,” Eckhardt says, “is that many chemicals which may be hazardous to health or the environment are used in manufacturing or sold in consumer products without adequate testing. The dangers such chemicals may pose often go undetected for years. But, as recent experiences with asbesteosis and vinyl chloriderelated deaths prove, we cannot afford to take risks where health and safety are concerned.” I’ll be interested in seeing more details about Eckhardt’s bill. The Washington Post reports that in the future scientists may be able to examine the molecular structure of questionable substances and identify those which are most likely to be dangerous. Meanwhile, compounds must be tested one by one in the laboratory and then debated one at a time in the public arena. Even when the danger of a particular substance such as DDT or dieldrin or chloradane is fairly well established, it often takes a bitter political fight to ban it. Often the fight is lost. The argument in favor of continued use of possibly deadly substances is usually couched in economic terms. “The farmer depends on this herbicide. His crop yield will be significantly lower without it.” A second line of defense is usually the “show me” argument. “Okay, so laboratory tests have proved that massive doses of this substance may cause cancer. But the consumer isn’t going to get massive doses of my product, only tiny doses.” The manufacturer, however, never takes into account the hundreds of other tiny tiny doses of carcinogens we are getting from other products. Scientists don’t yet know what all those doses will add up to. They’re pretty sure, however, they won’t add up to anything healthful. The U. S. Senate recently voted to ban cattle feed, and the debate went along fairly traditional lines. The action came on to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act. Kennedy and a number of prominent cancer researchers, including the head of the National Cancer Institute, maintain that DES is carcinogenic and that traces of the drug can be found in store-bought beef, especially liver. Back in the Fifties, when the drug was prescribed for pregnant woknown cases of vaginal or cervical cancer. It’s now used to artificially induce growth of beef cattle and as a morning-after birth control pill for humans. If Kennedy’s bill is passed by the House \(and we urge readers to write their congressmen in support of feed. The bill also requires the FDA to closely monitor the use of DES as a prescription drug. The label would warn all potential users of the known hazards of the drug and patients would have to sign an informed-consent form before it could -be prescribed. Kennedy’s bill would also bring the FDA under closer Senate scrutiny by requiring that the President appoint and the Senate consent to the nomination of the agency’s leadership. In the past, the FDA has seemed overly concerned with a good business climate for drug manufacturers and not nearly concerned enough with The New York Times SUNDAY EDITION Delivered to your home in the Dallas area. Call 239-5235 for rates and information.