Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments

Nurses Ask Congress to Protect Government Report on Cancer-Causing Chemicals

September 4, 2012 by Katie Huffling   Comments (1)

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September 5, 2012

(Washington) The Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (AHNE) sent a letter to Congress today in support of the Report on Carcinogens (ROC), an annual scientific study published by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) that identifies chemicals that cause cancer.


"As nurses, we see firsthand the devastating impact cancer can have on our patients and their families. The Report on Carcinogens is an essential tool in our cancer prevention efforts, and helps us counsel our patients on how to reduce their exposure to carcinogens,” explains Katie Huffling, RN, MS, CNM with AHNE.


The ROC is the federal government’s official list of chemicals “known” or “reasonably anticipated” to cause cancer in humans. This report has been mandated by Congress since the 1970’s and provides science-based, impartial information about those chemicals that can increase cancer incidence.


Now, some members of Congress are attempting to do away with the RoC. Representative Denny Rehberg, (R-MT) has attached a rider to the Labor, Health & Human Services (LHHS) Appropriations bill for Fiscal year 2013 that would prevent work on the next edition of the RoC by withholding all funding for RoC, pending completion of a review of the listing of formaldehyde and styrene in the previous edition. This would effectively halt the RoC for two to four years.


The letter states: We represent many thousands of nurses who are concerned about associations between toxic chemicals and numerous diseases, including cancer. A cornerstone of nursing practice is prevention and the ROC provides us with a valuable resource in reducing our patients’ exposures to carcinogens.

“Infants and children are particularly vulnerable to exposure to chemical pollutants due to their periods of rapid growth and development.  The Report on Carcinogens informs pediatric nurse practitioners about cancer causing chemicals and assists them in taking steps to reduce exposures and protect children’s health,” explains Susan Van Cleve, DNP, CPNP-PC, PMHS, President of National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners.

There is a growing body of science showing that some chemicals can trigger health impacts even at very low doses. Furthermore, when exposures happen early in life, they can trigger conditions resulting in an illness like cancer manifesting years or even decades later. The RoC examines this new emerging science on health hazards for some chemicals and is an essential tool in preventing cancer.


Adelita G. Cantu, PhD, RN, National Association of Hispanic Nurses, comments, “The RoC is especially important to communities of color, who are disproportionately impacted by toxic chemicals, including carcinogens. Communities must have every tool they need to identify chemicals released in their environments that can cause cancer. I see children playing in toxic water near the US-Mexico border.  The people deserve to know if that water contains carcinogens so they can try and halt contamination, and exposure.”


Some chemicals listed in the RoC are in products used in clinical settings, schools, homes, and child care centers. Formaldehyde, deemed a carcinogen in the latest Report, is found in a broad range of products. It’s linked to an increased risk of leukemia, and exposure to formaldehyde poses a threat to the health of U.S. children. When such threats are identified, through scientific reports such as the ROC, we can reduce children’s exposure and protect their health. As stated to Congress in the letter, “The Report on Carcinogens is respected throughout the U.S. and around the globe as a public health resource. We strongly urge Congress to continue to support the work of NIEHS and NTP. Please oppose any effort to withhold funding from the Report on Carcinogens in the LHHS FY 2013 funding bill.”


“Since the release of the most recent President's Cancer Panel report that shows environmental causes of cancer are grossly underestimated, nurses are more concerned than ever about the link between toxic chemicals and cancer. And we're not about to stand by in silence while necessary information like the Report on Carcinogens is silenced,” states Kathy Curtis, LPN, Co-Chair ANHE Policy/Advocacy Work Group.


The Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (ANHE) is a coalition of nursing organizations (representing hundreds of thousands of nurses) and individual nurses who believe that our environment and health are inextricably connected.  The Mission of ANHE is to promote healthy people and healthy environments by educating and leading the nursing profession, advancing research, incorporating evidence-based practice, and influencing policy.


Download: ANHE ROC Letter to Congress


Press Contact: Katie Huffling, 240-753-3729,


Available for Interviews

Adelita Cantu, PhD, RN, Assistant Professor, University of Texas Health Science Center of San Antonio, School of Nursing, National Association of Hispanic Nurses, 210-289-7623 (cell), Dr. Cantu can address how the ROC is important to determine safer chemicals and how minorities of color and communities along the US-Mexico border are impacted by chemical exposures. 


Kathy Curtis, Co-Chair, Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments Policy/Advocacy Work Group 518.708.3922 (cell) 518.355.6202 (home office) Kathy can address efforts in New York state a well as national work to reform chemical regulations for safer chemicals, and will discuss how the ROC is important to determine safer chemicals.


Katie Huffling, Director of Programs, Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, 240-753-3729 (cell) Katie can address nurses involvement in national work on safer chemicals and how the RoC impacts the ability of nurses to prevent cancer. Katie can also address how the RoC specifically impacts the health of women and infants.