apples, strawberries, canned tomatoes? Air we breathe, water we drink, dirt our kids play in?

I’m pissed. The President’s Cancer Panel released its report last week, after several years of delay, and there is incontrovertible proof that chemicals in our environment are causing the increase in human cancers. Not shocking, right? I mean, of course, what else is to explain the rapid rise in childhood cancers and the fact that people in the developed world account for the vast majority of global cancer cases? But still, this report, coming from the medical mainstream, takes things to a new level, basically says it’s way worse than we may have previously thought.

Here is the full report, a long and technical read that’s more depressing and maddening than a Cavs playoff game (which I really shouldn’t to dwell on because I have nothing new to add to that conversation except to say that there is a special kind of pain reserved for Cleveland sports fans, one that you simply cannot fathom until you have had your hopes crushed as many times as we have. It is so much more than a game to this city, so much more.). Anyway! Here’s Nicolas Kristof’s take on it (the cancer research not the NBA playoffs) in last week’s New York Times, which does a great job of breaking down the report into its key components for a much quicker (but equally depressing and maddening) read. Politics aside, this is a pretty big deal.

As always, it’s the most vulnerable who are . . . well, most vulnerable. The poor, living in urban areas with higher concentrations of chemicals in the air, the working poor employed in jobs with heavier exposure to industrial and manufacturing chemicals, pregnant women and, of course, children.  As a pregnant woman, you’re bombarded with messages about not smoking and not drinking, but few mention not eating conventionally grown blueberries. I know women who microwaved their deli meat for fear of listeriosis but still drank water from BPA-laced plastic bottles. And what do they get? Five-year-olds with ovarian cancer? That’s just plain wrong.

It’s ironic that it’s often things we might consider healthy — fruits and vegetables, bottled water — that cause some of the greatest damage. Things we consume in even bigger quantities when we’re pregnant or that we foist on our children when they’re still growing.

I’m mad at myself too, because I still prefer an unnaturally shiny and blemish-free apple to its dull, slightly mushy organic counterpart. But we make small changes — driving the extra miles to Whole Foods, spending the extra dollars, switching to Shaklee cleaning products (again spending the extra dollars). Of course, in my case, the damage is done. All-natural sanitizing wipes are not going to undo the cellular freak show that exists in my boy’s body. It’s too late for us.

But maybe it’s not too late for you.

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