This is an account from Wibke Rebecca Bettina Heymach (Vee), MCAF Field Organizer in Southeast Michigan Race from The Cure Detroit:
In preparation for the 2012 Race for the Cure I did a lot of research into environmental causes for cancer. The information I found affirmed why it was so vital for us to be at the event and talk to many of the attendees about the effect that air pollution has on their communities and their children.
Early on Saturday, May 26th both of the Michigan Moms Clean Air Force organizers set up the booth right in front of Comerica Park.
Despite the early hour, an amazing amount of families and individuals showed up to get ready for the Race and Walk for the Cure. Prior to hearing the starting pistol go off at nine a.m. there was a lot of time for socializing, enjoying some coffee and breakfast together, and exchanging information. Having participated in the Race for the Cure for the last four years, I have always been touched and inspired by the amount of great stories you hear at this event and the sheer magnitude of amazing people I have met. This year we were able to also share the MCAF story and talk to parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents and other concerned citizens about the influences that air pollution has on our children.
Cancer rates have dropped overall, however some forms of cancer that are most frequently seen in children are increasing. Children are considerably more susceptible to environmental toxins then adults. The Presidential Cancer Panel of 2009 states that “all levels of government, from federal to local, must work to protect every American from needless disease through rigorous regulation of environmental pollutants.”
While many Americans carry numerous toxins in their bodies, women have higher levels of many of those toxins and hormone disrupting substances in their bodies than men. That puts women at higher risk for cancer. It is also carried in maternal blood, placental tissue and breast milk ensuring that those toxins are carried on to the next generation. So children are not only more susceptible to increased cancer risks and other adverse effects from all detrimental environmental exposure, they also receive it through their mothers!
Speaking of mothers, about one in eight women develop breast cancer over the course of their lives. One of the sources of breast cancer are PAH’s. PAH’s are atmospheric pollutants that originate as the byproducts of combustion Coal-fired power plants are one of the sources of PAH’s. People absorb these particulate matters by simply breathing in. Like numerous other chemicals that are associated with breast cancer risk PAHs are lipophilic meaning that they are stored in the fat tissue of the breast. The Breast Cancer Fund says that “…exposure to environmental toxicants at critical periods of breast development can influence later cancer risk.”
Unfortunately that is not yet where the list stops. Air pollutants also are directly linked to heart and lung cancer. The Harvard Six Cities Study update shows a significant relationship between fine particulate matter and lung and cardiovascular mortality. The same study concludes that “further public policy efforts that reduce fine particulate matter air pollution are likely to have continuing public health benefits.” The biggest sources of air pollution are coal fired power plants. Nine of those plants in Michigan have been deemed to be below standard, which means that they are putting Michiganders at an even greater risk for heart and lung cancer.
Sharing this information at the Race for the Cure was an exceptional experience because Starla and I had the unique opportunity to not only talk to many women, men and families about this information, but to also pause and listen to their various stories. Fighting for a cure means also thinking about what can be done long term for the environment we are living in and raising our children in.
Thank you to all that took the time to stop by and talk to us and share their stories – it has been great meeting all of you. If you did not have the chance to sign up at the event, please sign up with us and help us fight for cleaner air and cancer prevention through cleaner air.