August 20, 2017

Cancer: are the experts lying?

Edward Goldsmith shows how the barely-restrained pollution of the chemical and nuclear industries are to blame for the growth of cancer. Unpublished article, 1997.

See also Cancer: the real causes.

Cancer is now a disease that afflicts one out of three people, and everybody knows in their hearts, and also on the basis of countless studies, what one of the main causes are: exposure to carcinogenic (cancer-causing) chemicals in the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe, and ionising radiation – from medical X-rays, nuclear tests and radioactive emissions from nuclear plants.

However, the ‘Cancer Establishment’ spearheaded by the National Cancer Institute in the USA and the Imperial Cancer Research Fund in the UK, will not admit it. Nor, of course, will the Chemical, Pharmaceutical and Nuclear Industries – that fund nearly all the research on the causes of cancer and make quite sure that the present cancer epidemic is attributed to anything except exposure to chemicals and radioactivity, even if it means refraining from publishing results of tests that reveal the carcinogenicity of the chemicals they produce, as has recently been revealed by the Environmental Protection agency in the USA. Not to mention regurgitating the same old bogus arguments:

  • The first, put forward by Sir Richard Doll, the Dean of the Cancer Establishment in this country, is that the cancer rate is not increasing except in the case of lung cancer, melanoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma; worse still that it has actually fallen by 15 percent since 1950. Amazing as it may be, this statement is in direct conflict with the official figures published by the National Cancer Institute itself, according to which the general incidence of cancer for the white population of the USA between 1950 and 1988 increased by 43.5 percent and, between 1950 and 1994, by 54 percent – on average around 1 percent per annum.What is more, it has been increasing ever since the beginning of the industrial age for, previously cancer was very rare and, in some areas, apparently non-existent. A researcher who worked for me in 1973 showed on the basis of WHO statistics that between 1967-68 the cancer rate in different countries – in this case Mauritius, Sri Lanka, Portugal and the USA – was almost directly proportionate to GNP. 
  • The second argument put forward by the Cancer Establishment, in the words of Dr John Emsley of The Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine is that “chemicals that are used in agriculture and food production have to pass stringent tests for safety”. This, of course, could not be further from the truth.
    • To begin with, only an insignificant fraction of the 70,000 or so chemicals that have been introduced into our environment and of the 1,000 or so new ones introduced every year have been tested at all. The facilities for testing so many different chemicals simply do not exist, either in the USA or in the UK.What is more, when the tests are conducted they could hardly be less “stringent”. They are carried out on chemicals in isolation from each other, whereas in the real world, we are exposed to a veritable cocktail of different chemicals and all the evidence suggests that in different combinations the chemicals can be tens, if not hundreds of times more carcinogenic than when used in isolation from each other.For instance a small amount of DDT, equivalent to that found in humans, greatly increases the liver damage produced by small amounts of carbon tetrachloride. The toxic effects of this solvent are also increased by a hundred times if one adds the common drug Phenobarbital. 
    • In addition chemicals undergo change over the years – among other things they decay and in some cases the decay products may be more harmful than the original material. This is the case for instance, with the pesticide heptachlor which decays into another chemical called heptachlor epoxide, and then into yet another one called heptachlor epoxide ketone, each of which is more carcinogenic than the preceding form.
    • Another problem is that there tends to be a long delay – often as much as 40 years between exposure to a carcinogen and the development of cancer. Worse still, specific cancers actually only appear in the next generation as in the case of DES, a hormone once prescribed to pregnant women, some of whose daughters developed, as a result, a rare form of vaginal cancer. Of course, it is only ‘economic’ to carry out tests for a very much shorter period – a few years at most – and even when higher doses are used, the results are unlikely to tell us what are likely to be the long-term effects.
  • The third argument is that much of our food contains very many more natural carcinogens than man-made ones (for instance, in mushrooms and blue cheese). This is the favourite argument of Bruce Ames, Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of California at Berkeley. Of course, for this thesis to be at all credible, the well-established increase in the cancer rate cannot be admitted: for while the production of synthetic organic chemicals has risen by more than 500 times since 1950, I doubt if the same can be said of our consumption of mushrooms and blue cheese.
  • The fourth argument is that if there is more cancer around it is simply that we live longer. Cancer is a disease of old age as Bate tells us. Clearly if there are more old people around there will be more cancer. This may once have been true but no longer. Cancer has become a major cause of death among children too. According to the official NCI figures childhood cancers have increased by 21.3 percent in US whites between 1950 and 1988, and cancer of the testes a largely new disease mostly confined to young people in their twenties has increased by 96.1 percent over the same period. Childhood cancer is actually increasing today at exactly the same rate as the overall cancer rate, by 1 percent per annum.

Professor Epstein of the University of Illinois, who has been valiantly fighting the Cancer Establishment for the last 40 years, shows that in spite of claims to the contrary, and of the billions of pounds poured into cancer research, very little progress has been made in finding a cure for this disease. Indeed, most scientists today agree that the accent should be on prevention rather than cure. However for many, prevention merely means promoting lifestyle changes for individual people.

Prevention for Professor Epstein and other serious scientists means more than this. Even if we ate nothing but organic fresh fruit and vegetables we would still be exposed to carcinogenic chemicals of all sorts that are in the air we breathe, in the rain that falls on our crops and the water that flows from our taps.

A big problem is that industry is experiencing an ever growing problem of how to dispose of its wastes. Thus as land-fills fill up and fewer places remain to start new ones on, the tendency is to incinerate wastes, including plastic wastes, a process that very often leads to the dispersal of highly carcinogenic dioxins and other poisons:

  • Chemical wastes are increasingly used as fuel – and are often provided free to be burned in cement kilns, which also means dispersing these poisons over the land.
  • Radioactive wastes are incinerated, or more precisely the material in which the radioactive particles are contained, as the latter cannot be destroyed by burning and are once more dispersed over the countryside and of course over neighbouring towns and villages.
  • It is perfectly legal in many countries to introduce chemical wastes into building materials, such as bricks and breeze blocks, and – incredible as it may seem – to add them to sludge and even to the artificial fertiliser that is spread out over our agricultural land, some government scientists even having the gall to assure us that this actually improves the soil.
  • Perhaps even more incredible is the new directive of the European Commission that legalizes the inclusion of radioactive waste in consumer products. Already British Nuclear Fuels are making available the radioactive remnants of a dismantled nuclear reactor for the manufacture of pots and pans.

We will thus be living in an increasingly chemicalized and radioactive environment in which the cancer rate can only further escalate until it eventually becomes generalized in the human population.

For these and other reasons, prevention – for anyone with any sense of responsibility at all – can only mean the reversal of these trends and a quick and effective reversal at that. Industrialists simply can no longer be allowed to poison our environment with their carcinogenic materials. They must simply stop producing them. A huge popular campaign is required to force them to do so. There is no socially or morally acceptable alternative.


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