The most compelling cases were from California and Florida, in which an estimated 1,400 people have died due to cancers linked to a toxic pesticide in their products in the past 20 years. And the numbers for Washington state are increasing. In fact even though that state has no current cluster of cases, it has five times as many deaths from those cancers linked to the pesticides than any other state.
Washington State is a beacon in the West that has been targeted by the powerful political, agricultural and political elite. The elites are using their considerable reach and influence to suppress healthy environmental policies and even to prevent lawsuits that would force changes in the corporate policies they do not like. And it is working. The toxic companies that use toxic chemicals to kill animals for animal feed, kill people in chemical-spill accidents, or kill crops to ensure profits have been increased and their profits continue to grow. Even more concerning is that Washington’s leaders and its elected officials are complicit in allowing such practices to continue.
Washington residents are exposed to the chemicals used to kill insects and fish. They are exposed to the chemicals used to kill insects and fish. And they are exposed to the chemicals used to kill fish and insects. And they might be exposed to the chemicals used in the state’s food or medicine. In a nation that prides itself on the safety of its food and medicine, some Washington health experts wonder how much longer the state’s food companies will continue to use a carcinogenic poison when they can find some other, more profitable method of increasing their profit margin. “There has to be a way for us to take the lead in this,” says Mike Tinsley, deputy director and director of the cancer program at the Washington State Department of Health.
Tinsley, who has been a leader in establishing and overseeing the state’s cancer program, has been working on this issue for the past 18 years. He says the state should look to other states, as they have successfully addressed the issue of chemical contamination in their food supply. The state of California, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), have had the highest concentration of cancer in the nation, with more than 18,000 cancers diagnosed each year. So it’s not surprising that the states with the highest rate of cancer in general are a few that rely on agricultural chemicals. Because this is an economy dependent on the crop, the Washington state farmers depend on the products of the companies that produce their crops. And because these chemicals are highly toxic, the state government is providing little protection for people and their families who use them.
“We need an aggressive national campaign against this,” says Tinsley. It was on February 26 when Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire signed into law a bill that allows state health officials to investigate health risks from the use of the herbicide atrazine. The bill is only temporary, however. In a more comprehensive effort to investigate and regulate the use of atrazine, legislators in the state legislature are currently debating the bill as well. But one critical component to protecting the public is to require the companies that produce the products to do a thorough cancer test on every one of their crops before they put their products on the market, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has found. For many chemicals, the tests are cheap and easily available, but for chemicals that are more toxic and have long-term environmental impacts, the health effects can be more difficult. For example, they can be hard to detect and take for one to six months.
“This law is supposed to provide safety certificates for food and cosmetics, and we need to have these documents in place before these substances are sold,” says Tinsley. “Right now there’s a delay of more than two years for data. That’s not bad. Here in Washington, though, with atrazine, we’re talking about a possible life for a young woman in her 20s for some of these chemicals.” After conducting about 50 months’ worth of data collection, the Washington state health department estimates atrazine will cause about a 20% increase in the number of atrazine cancer cases, but may not result in any new diagnoses. Some scientists think the increase will be closer to a 40% increase in the number of new cases. And, despite the lack of evidence for the cancer increase, state health authorities in the state are not giving up. They are still studying more information and using a different pesticide that is approved by the EPA for the area the chemicals were sprayed in. And they are still examining the data. So far they have come to the same conclusion that they have for atrazine. “The fact that in our investigations we have not found any cancer in any of this area, we feel that given the amount of data to date and to come before