Weedkillers, Bug Sprays and Breast Cancer


July 23, 2011

I was thinking of all the friends I know who have had breast cancer.  None of them live in an industrial area.  Yes, there are other risk factors besides environmental factors, certainly, but I still wondered why there would be so many cases in the relative safety of the suburbs.

The reason?  It’s not safe here in the ‘burbs.  I’m not talking about crime, I’m talking about pollution.  We may look around and see pretty lawns and fields and gardens, but don’t be fooled. We aren’t spewing toxins into air and stream via big ugly factories, but we are spraying our fields, our lawns, and our golf courses with very toxic stuff, which as it so happens, is not healthy for women’s breast tissue (or our pets or children or elders or other living beings.)

I first read about this topic in a wonderful pamphlet in my doctor’s office called Think Pink, Live Green.  It’s put out by BreastCancer.Org, which is a wonderful non-profit organization based in Pennsylvania.  This brochure was so refreshingly honest about risk factors and suggestions, that I wasn’t surprised to learn it had been authored by a female doctor and published by a non-profit organization.  www.breastcancer.org

It was the first time I heard that breast tissue is actually rather sensitive to many of the toxins in our environment – but especially pesticides and herbicides called xenoestrogens, or chemicals that mimic the actions of natural estrogens.” http://erbc.vassar.edu/erbc/environmentalrisks/outsidethehome/ph/index.html

Consider the following:

In December the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) added estrogen to its list of known cancer-causing agents. For years, estrogen has been a suspected carcinogen, since strong epidemiological evidence associates the hormone to breast, endometrial, and uterine cancers. http://www.cumc.columbia.edu/publications/in-vivo/Vol2_Iss10_may26_03/index.html

Ever since reading that pamphlet, I have been ever more sensitive to what I’m seeing around me.  For instance, I literally feel pain when I drive by a certain portion of Route 313 on the way to my home.  It looks like some death machine had driven by.  There are whole sections of vegetation on the right side of the road which are burned and brown.  It is not from lack of water, it is clearly from a spray.  Plants like sumac appear to have been targeted, but whole sections of grass and bush and wildflowers were decimated along with the tree.

Every time I see evidence of roadside spraying of herbicides (which is a common practice of PennDOT and other state transportation agencies), I cringe.  Because they are sprayed roadside, they are obviously sprayed exactly where there are ditches and drains.  That means that when it rains, all of those toxins are going to wash down the drain and into our streams, into our rivers, into our bays, and into our oceans.

It boggles my mind that we could be foolish enough to think that a poison will only affect that upon which it was sprayed.  The world doesn’t work that way.  Everything truly is connected.  Those poisons may immediately and directly affect that which we are targeting, but the cumulative affect of these toxins in our waters, soil, and plants is just now beginning to be realized.

In addition, I have recently learned of a common current practice of growing crops.  And it is changing the way I feel about local farms in a most distressing way.  I used to be so grateful every time I saw a field because at least it wasn’t yet another freaking housing development.  But recently I have been noticing these “scorched earth” fields.  I learned from my friend, who learned it firsthand from a local farmer, that the current practice is to spray something like Roundup all over the entire field, killing every living thing on it, and then follow with the planting of a crop (like corn, for instance) by basically drilling a hole into the soil (with special farm equipment) and dropping in a seed with some kind of fertilizer mix.

Apparently genetically modified crops have been the norm for longer than I realized: “Roundup Ready corn, soy, and cotton have been the norm in America during this past decade and longer. The seeds are used for 90% of soy and 80% of corn plantings. Roundup is used four times that of any other herbicide.” (sic) http://seekingalpha.com/article/208739-superweed-immunity-to-monsanto-pesticide-means-opportunity-for-competitors

“There’s plenty of scientific, peer-reviewed evidence out there to indicate that eating Roundup is not a good idea. Because it’s a systemic pesticide and sprayed in high doses, produce and fruit and nut trees often take up the poison into the parts of the food we eat. That’s major cause for concern, particularly since a 2010 Argentine study found malformations in frogs and chicken embryos at doses much lower than those used in farm field spraying. The Argentine scientists found that the mutations occurred mainly in the “skull, face, midline, and developing brain and spinal cord.”

These mutations correlated with what doctors were seeing on the ground in Argentinean children who lived in areas that grew large amounts of genetically engineered Roundup Ready soy. The seeds are designed to grow into plants that can tolerate mega Roundup doses.” http://www.rodale.com/roundup-dangers?page=0%2C1

In laymen’s terms, this means Roundup causes birth defects.  And many of today’s seeds (corn, soy, wheat) are genetically modified to tolerate the toxins.  That means whenever we eat GMOs – genetically modified foods, we are introducing these toxins into our bodies.  And for women – especially pregnant women and their unborn babies – this is particularly dangerous.

Another pesticide commonly used in North America – especially on corn, is Atrazine (ATR).  This is also linked to breast and other cancers because “although not directly estrogenic, ATR treatment has been shown to increase aromatase activity in tumor cell lines.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17685393 (Aromatase is an enzyme that is responsible  for a key step in the biosynthesis of estrogens.  Because estrogens also promote certain cancers and other diseases, aromatase inhibitors are frequently used to treat those diseases.)

This morning the sheer lunacy of our current farming protocol hit me hard.  We take this beautifully abundant and fertile planet, we spray it with poisons so that it becomes quite sterile, and then we use it merely as a lifeless medium in which to grow one specific crop. It sounded suddenly like this horrible futuristic sci-fi plot.  But it’s not.  Unfortunately, it’s all too real.

Compare that methodology to the practices of our ancient ancestors, who had all manner of ritual associated with the growing of crops. They realized the sacredness of the process of growing things.  They realized the power and beauty and generosity of this Earth which, quite literally, feeds us.  They gave offerings to the Earth, praying for a bountiful harvest.  Oh to return to a humble, thankful, simple, sacred way of living rather than this cancer-causing, death-wielding, mechanistic way of doing things!

For several months I had been in such gratitude about living “in the country” surrounded by such incredible natural beauty. Now I am painfully aware that I am also surrounded on two sides by fields which have received this “scorched earth” treatment.  And I’m acutely aware that something is going on in my breasts and it could very well be cancer.

The following is excerpted from an excellent and well-researched site – http://www.sensible-alternative.com.au/female-hormones/breast-cancer-prevention

“Fifteen years ago, we were still being told that breast cancer was genetic. After decades of research and billions of dollars spent, researchers have finally had to admit that only 10% of breast cancer cases have any genetic factor, and less than half of cases can be linked with other risk factors such as reproductive history and diet. The research has quietly shifted direction, with new research focused on the effect of pollution. In 2003 alone, there were 26 studies linking breast cancer with dioxins and PCB’s. According to many authorities now, including the American Cancer Society, the majority of breast cancer may actually be the result of exposure to environmental toxins like these.

The American Breast Cancer Fund released a report called: State of the Evidence 2004: What Is the Connection between the Environment and Breast Cancer?  According to the report, the rapid increase in breast cancer in recent decades has occurred at the same time as a staggering increase the number of chemicals. Nancy Evans, the editor of the report says that “compelling scientific evidence” links breast cancer with some of the 85,000 synthetic chemicals in use. The worst chemicals are plastics, pesticides, petroleum combustion, manufacturing solvents, and also personal use products such as nail polish, sunscreen, and other cosmetics.

The 2010 report from the US President’s Cancer Panel reached a similar conclusion. They warn that there is a ‘a growing body of evidence linking environmental exposures to cancer’, and claim that the effect of pollution on cancer has been until now seriously under-estimated.

Research has found that exposure to insecticides as a foetus leads to abnormal breast tissue proliferation later in life.  Early puberty is another particularly vulnerable time. This means that pregnant women and pubescent girls must take particular care to minimise their exposure.

Pesticide residues are in our water and food. Grains, coffee and tobacco are particularly heavily sprayed. Animal fat concentrates the pesticides that are found in the animal’s feed.  Growth hormone and pesticide residues are almost certainly the reason why red meat is associated with a greater risk of breast cancer. Organic meat does not carry the same risk.
SolutionBuy organic meat.


It seems we have a responsibility to raise our voices to our governmental representatives to outlaw these poisons that are clearly having a detrimental affect on ALL of us, but particularly on women and unborn babies.  But we also have the power of our consumer dollar.  Let’s start buying organic foods.  Let’s tell our grocery stores that we want more organic produce. Let’s plant our own gardens and buy from organic farmers.

To be honest, I confess I would sometimes hesitate about spending a little extra money for organic produce, however I would then remind myself that it was an easy way to support the people who were doing the right thing.  After doing the research for this blog, I am more committed than ever to eating organically and to supporting those who grow and sell organic foods.

It has been hard to write this blog.  It is hard for me to avoid going to a place of despair or anger about the widespread use of toxins in our world.  And, quite frankly, I know that anger is an appropriate response.   I believe that some of the smaller scale spraying is done in total ignorance of the ramifications, but I have no doubt that the big corporations know this is toxic stuff they are dealing with and they choose to ignore that little detail because they believe if they don’t use the stuff, it will affect their profits.  And for most big corporations, Profit is their god.  Perhaps then what we need to do is find low-cost alternatives to the healthy growing of food in huge quantities.  Perhaps we can never depend on corporations to have a conscience.  We must talk to them from a bottom-line economic point of view.

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To reassure you, in the future I will try to balance out possibly depressing blogs like this one with others that talk about natural treatments, finding support, becoming empowered, and getting well.  What can we do to bring ourselves back to a state of vibrant health?  What can do to return to a state of vibrant health?

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