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Is Disease Just Good Business?

The Guardian Weekly (UK)
January 11, 2001
By George Monbiot

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following editorial was sourced from the British publication "The Guardian Weekly". Though certain content reflects a predominantly British reality, the argument is, in most cases, equally valid in Canada. Chemical companies are as involved in the manufacture and proliferation of disease causing agents as they are in the research and development of pharmaceuticals that doctors promote as curative of the diseases caused by such chemicals. Is there collusion between the medical community and chemical manufacturers? Perhaps collusion is a strong word, but let us say that such chem-co's are fully capable of mustering astronomical pay-offs to the medical community, governments and ngo's in order to demonstrate the profitability of such a sinister cycle.
These are corporations who also own seed companies, manufacture agricultural chemicals on which farmers have become wholly dependent, and pull the strings on the GMO industry whose 'modified' gemetically-latered foods dominate supermarket shelves.
Remember this as your read Mr. Monbiot's article.

Are man-made chemicals turning against us?

Few misconceptions are as widespread as the idea that the war against cancer is being won. Scarcely a week goes by without a promise that deliverance is just around the corner. Last week we learnt that a new injection might cure lymphomas. The day before, the British government announced that a further 90m (approx. $225 million Can.) would help to eliminate intestinal tumours.
"In the United States childhood brain cancers and leukemias have been advancing by 1.8% a year since 1973. In Britain four out of 10 people are likely to contract cancer at some stage in their lives."

Cancer, most commentators agree, is all but dead. So it's perplexing to discover that cancer in industrialised countries is rising. While lung, cervical, uterine and stomach cancers are declining, and treatments for testicular cancer and childhood leukemia have greatly improved, cancer overall has increased by 60% in the past 50 years. Breast cancer has almost doubled. Prostate cancer has risen by 200%, testicular cancer in young men by 300%. In the United States childhood brain cancers and leukemias have been advancing by 1.8% a year since 1973. In Britain four out of 10 people are likely to contract cancer at some stage in their lives.

These increases are often ascribed to better detection and an ageing population. But the figures are age-adjusted: a 60-year-old today is 200% more likely to contract prostate cancer than a 60-year-old would have been in 1950. Reported cancers have continued to rise after the universal deployment of new screening techniques: this is not an artefact of diagnosis. Cancer is thriving.
" Scientific papers have highlighted the dangers of pesticides, herbicides, beef hormones, petrol additives, oral contraceptives, artificial sweeteners, PVC and scores of other chemicals."

According to Samuel Epstein, professor of environmental medicine at the University of Illinois, the reason is obvious. Since 1940 the world's production of synthetic organic chemicals has risen 600-fold, exposing our bodies to a huge toxic load.

Last year a US study found that children living beside busy roads were six times as likely to suffer from cancer as children in quiet areas. This is hardly surprising: the two most carcinogenic compounds ever detected are produced by diesel engines. A British study published in 1997 showed that children living within 5km of oil refineries and chemical plants were more likely to contract cancer than those living further away. Figures released by the US Environmental Protection Agency last year suggest that 7% of all cancers are caused by dioxins, mostly from incinerators. Scientific papers have highlighted the dangers of pesticides, herbicides, beef hormones, petrol additives, oral contraceptives, artificial sweeteners, PVC and scores of other chemicals.

So I commend a fascinating document published by Britain's Department of Health. The NHS Cancer Plan tells how the Government intends to eliminate cancer. It contains plenty of helpful advice on giving up smoking. It outlines a scheme for increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables that children eat. But only one pollutant is mentioned as a possible cause of cancer: radon gas, which occurs naturally.

It's not hard to see that the main polluting industries and the pharmaceutical companies manufacturing cancer "cures" (they are often one and the same) have an interest in maintaining the status quo. But the big cancer charities also appear reluctant to take contamination seriously. The Imperial Cancer Research Fund's website records no matches for the word "pollution". The researcher Martin Walker reports that of the 110 research units cited in its 1998 scientific report, not one deals with chemical or environmental carcinogens. The Cancer Research Campaign (CRC) website mentions pollution, but dismisses concerns with the claim that "experts think that only 5% of preventable cancer deaths may be linked to environmental factors".

The CRC's 10-page press release on poverty and cancer blames inequalities in treatment for differing rates of death, but says nothing about pollution, even though the poor are far more likely than the rich to live beside dirty factories and toxic dumps. Give them more money, the cancer charities claim, and they will find the magic formula that will save us all from a hideous death.

But could it be possible that we are dying so that they might live?

The Guardian Weekly 11-1-2001, page 23