April 29, 2023

Cancer and The Environment


As a teenager I made out in abandoned factories, where mysterious steel drums leaked on the floors and industrial grime came in all colors and textures. I guess high schoolers in farm country drink Boonsebury and go cow tipping, but in Pittsburgh, we smoked pot on slag heaps.

Did growing up amid Pittsburgh’s steel town relics contributed to my cancer? And more importantly, how do I reducing my current exposure to carcinogens. This is the subject of my guest post featured yesterday on Blue Planet Green Living.

Survivors and healthy folks alike are focusing heavily on how to be more green, but going green is not just a consumer lifestyle trend; it is a public health issue that will never be solved one eco-purchase or CFL at a time.

Let’s face it, shopping for organic sheets at Bed Bath and Beyond is way more seductive than educating ourselves about coal fire power plants or vehicle emissions standards. But buying more crap – even if it is eco-organic crap still makes a negative impact on the environment. As young adult cancer patients, often with low incomes and medical debt, we are better off resisting most eco-marketing and buying less in general.

Indoor air quality is a major health issue and choices about the chemicals we eat and wear are important. But as a cancer patient, I’ve gotta look beyond my consumer habits and stop ignoring the big enviro-elephants. My eco lip gloss does not matter if toxic power plant emissions are drifting in the wind.

Do you think something in your environment when you were a kid caused your illness? Are eco-products affordable for your budget along side healthcare costs? How do you decide what to buy? Are you enticed by beautiful, hip, enviro marketing? Do you know what a coal fire power plant is? Is environmental policy interesting to you, a bore, does it matter?

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  1. Cathy Bueti Says:
    April 30th, 2009 at 5:49 AM

    Love this post Kairol! It is something I spend countless hours thinking about but not on the whole picture. I obsess over safe cosmetics, whether or not to keep using hair dye, organic sheets etc but haven’t given way enough thought to the environment! Crazy right?! I have wondered if my environment contributed to my cancer diagnosis. I grew up in a house filled to the brim with second hand smoke (probably from my first breath upon arriving home the after I was born!) and lived not too far from a power plant. There were barely any veggies on my dinner table and tons of processed food. Buying eco products and organic definitely puts a dent in my wallet. I have to prioritize that list and I struggle with it daily. What I need to do is be kinder to myself and not obsess so much over this kind of stuff. OCD much! Yep thats me! But seriously I hate to admit that I recently started recycling and looking more at the environment and state of the planet and how they affect my health.

  2. Kate Says:
    April 30th, 2009 at 5:55 AM

    You’re right I think we were using our psychic powers. There’s nothing sexy about fighting to get known carcinogens out of our lives but that’s going to far more effective than finding “The Cure”.

  3. Dennis Pyritz, RN Says:
    April 30th, 2009 at 9:50 AM

    Is it any coincidence then that Pittsburgh is home to the national headquarters for the Oncology Nursing Society. I continue to follow your energetic blog and have added you to my Cancer Blogs Links Page. Take care, Dennis beingcancer/net

  4. SB Says:
    April 30th, 2009 at 7:38 PM

    Yeah, I grew up in Pittsburgh too and remember riding my bike on the slag heaps. I do believe the environment there is cancer-causing based on the anecdotal evidence that I’ve seen.

  5. Anonymous Says:
    April 30th, 2009 at 8:53 PM

    Following up on sb’s comment, it is not only anecdotal evidence about the environment in Pittsburgh. Air quality modeling shows that the city consistently has some of the highest levels of fine particulate matter pollution of any city in the country. http://environmentaloncology.org/node/240

    A primary cause of this is the plethora of dirty coal-fired power plants and other major sources of air pollution in the Ohio River Valley. Advocating, pushing government officials, and voting to ensure that these coal plants are cleaned up or phased out in favor of cleaner energy alternatives will do a lot more to improve public health than simply buying more eco-products.

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