WASHINGTON — A mom whose four-year-old died after losing a battle to a brain tumor called Wednesday for tougher US regulation of chemicals suspected of being behind a rise in childhood cancers.
"There's growing evidence linking toxic chemicals and carcinogens in the environment with childhood cancer," Christine Brouwer told a telephone news conference as she described losing a child to cancer.
"I'll most likely never know what caused my daughter's cancer, but researchers are finding more and more links between the hazardous substances in our homes and workplaces and cancer and other diseases."
Brouwer's daughter Mira underwent several operations and endured painful and nauseating treatments to try to beat the cancer she was diagnosed with just before her second birthday, on January 27, 2004.
After several rounds of surgery and months of treatment, Mira's cancer went into remission and she seemed to have won her fight against the ailment.
But it came back on her fourth birthday, killing her weeks later.
Her family questioned why the child was struck by such a serious illness so young, and Brouwer's suspicions turned toward the chemicals found in cleaning fluids for the floors that babies crawl on, in the plastic of the bottles they drink from and in some of the foods they and their parents eat.
Boston University professor of environmental health Richard Clapp said the incidence of childhood cancer in the United States has grown about one percent a year for the past two decades.
"It's clear that at least one component of the cause is environmental chemical exposure," he said.
Epidemiologists have linked chlorinated solvents to childhood leukemia and other solvents to brain cancer in children, said Clapp, who served as director of the Massachusetts Cancer Registry for 10 years in the 1980s.
Pediatrician Sean Palfrey said doctors suspect chemicals and other environmental pollutants are behind a rise in everything from cancer to allergies to asthma in children.
"The problem with our current situation is that we are putting so many chemicals out into our environment, and our bodies have no idea how to detoxify them, don't know how to prevent them being absorbed," he said, calling for tougher US laws on chemicals.
Brouwer, Clapp and Palfrey were participating in a news conference organized by the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families advocacy group, which says the 35-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act does not cover the vast majority of chemicals in US consumer products and urgently needs an overhaul.