The series of studies which comprise the research, worked on by 174 scientists in 28 countries, considered links between 85 common chemicals thought not to cause cancer. Fifty were found to interact at ordinary environmental exposure levels to support cancer-related mechanisms.
“This research backs up the idea that chemicals not considered harmful by themselves are combining and accumulating in our bodies to trigger cancer and might lie behind the global cancer epidemic we are witnessing,” said Dr. Hemad Yasaei, a cancer biologist at Brunel University London, in a press release. “We urgently need to focus more resources to research the effect of low dose exposure to mixtures of chemicals in the food we eat, air we breathe and water we drink.”
The Nova Scotia-based Getting To Know Cancer put together the task force of scientists for the first-of-its-kind look at the effects of combinations of common chemicals thought not to cause cancer. The organization gathered scientists two years ago as part of the Halifax Project, which created task forces of scientists researching the complexities of cancer and its causes.
William Goodson III, a senior scientist at the California Pacific Medical Center, said the results of the studies show not only that chemicals safe on their own are combining in the air to form mixtures that can cause cancer, but that the way chemicals are tested for safety needs to be changed.
“The way we’ve been testing chemicals — one at a time — is really quite out of date,” Goodson said. “Every day we are exposed to an environmental ‘chemical soup,’ so we need testing that evaluates the effects of our ongoing exposure to these chemical mixtures.”