Congressional hearing on cancer rates held on Long Island
GARDEN CITY, N.Y. (AP) – Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton praised Long Island breast cancer activists Monday for being among those who ”changed the way we think about health in our country and certainly about how we treat diseases.”
In her first Senate hearing in New York since being elected, Clinton moderated a four-hour session examining possible links between environmental contamination and chronic diseases such as asthma and cancer, particularly breast cancer.
”Breast cancer activists … have really brought citizen participation into the health care system and into research and medical decisions to a point where it’s now inconceivable that we would proceed without having citizen involvement,” Clinton said at a press conference following the hearing of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee.
Many of those in the audience at the hearing at Adelphi University wore buttons from the One in Nine organization, one of the Long Island breast cancer activist groups that has lobbied for more attention to the disease. Also in attendance were Long Island’s five congressional representatives.
Harry Reid, D-Nev., who chairs the committee, said: ”Whether we are talking about childhood leukemia cases in Nevada or mothers and daughters battling breast cancer in New York, chronic diseases affect communities nationwide.”
In April, Clinton traveled with Reid to Fallon, Nev., to examine a childhood leukemia cluster there.
Though scientific studies have in most cases failed to prove a direct link between environmental factors and neighborhood breast cancer clusters, many Long Island residents have suspected that pesticides, power lines and tainted ground water have played a role in the region’s above-average breast cancer rate.
Among those testifying Monday were Dick Jackson, director of the National Center for Environmental Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Sam Wilson, deputy director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences at the National Institutes for Health.
Jackson said that while the Environmental Protection Agency has performed well in determining environmental hazards, ”We have been much weaker in finding out what’s in human beings.”
Many panelists noted that while increased funding for research is needed and that communications between various state and federal agencies could be improved, concerns remain about protecting patient privacy.
Others testifying included Phil Landrigan, chairman of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine’s department of community and preventive medicine, and Karen Joy Miller, president of the Huntington Breast Cancer Action Coalition and herself a breast cancer survivor.
”We need to give very serious consideration to the notion that toxic chemicals in the environment have at least contributed to the increasing incidents of childhood cancer,” Landrigan said.
The Long Island Breast Cancer Study Project is in the midst of several projects studying possible environmental links.
One study is investigating the impact of electromagnetic fields, the current flowing from power lines. Another is examining a potential link to chemicals like DDT or PCBs.
Although Long Island has received most of the attention, Rockland County has a slightly higher breast cancer rate, according to figures from the state health department that cover 1994 through 1998.
Jim Hare, a City Council member from Elmira, N.Y., and Tim Tobin, the parent of a cancer survivor from Elmira’s Southside High School, also testified about a suspected cancer cluster near the school, which is in a former industrial site.
On the Net:
Long Island Study: http://www-dccps.ims.nci.nih.gov/LIBCSP/
Hillary Clinton: http://clinton.senate.gov
Centers for Disease Control: http://www.cdc.gov/
New York State Health Department: http://www.health.state.ny.us
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