Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Sources of Cancer

Nicholas Kristof had another thoughtful column today, this time about plastics and other carcinogens found in common products. Here's my comment:

Dear Mr. Kristof,

There are many sources of cancer-causing chemicals but one of the most ubiquitous is the most ignored - our atmosphere. We are putting tons of toxins in the air by burning fossil and biofuels, even though it has been proven in many scientific studies that the resulting ozone and other volatile organic compounds cause asthma, emphysema and cancer.

In addition, an even more neglected facet of the complex reactions between fuel emissions and UV radiation is the impact they have on vegetations. Ozone, peroxyacetyl nitrates, acid rain, and nitrous oxide are poisonous to plantlife, destroying the foliar stomata and crippling the ability to photosynthesize and produce chlorophyll. In effect, our trees and plants are being starved to death.

Trees on the east coast, and quite likely elsewhere, uniformly exhibit the symptoms of irreversible decline. This fall, deciduous trees lost their leaves over a month earlier than normal, and coniferous trees are turning yellow and losing needles. This past summer season was an agricultural disaster, literally, according to the USDA.

I have been posting photographs and links to scientific research on this topic at

It’s all well and good to avoid carcinogens in plastics, eat organic food, and exercise. But compared to the lethal gases we are breathing, that is all but a fetish to avoid the elephant in the room that no one wants to acknowledge, because it’s going to require a lot more than recycling to begin to make a dent in the source.

We have to switch to clean energy before we push our ecosystem towards mass extinctions, which will likely include us humans.

Gail in Oldwick, NJ

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