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carsIn 2007, we focused on car manufacturers who sell cars to raise money for breast cancer, while the cars themselves produce air pollutants linked to breast cancer. Ford, Mercedes and BMW urge consumers to buy and drive cars in the name of breast cancer, yet internal combustion engine car exhaust contains toxic chemicals that are linked to the disease. In order to prevent future generations of women from getting this disease, we believe these companies have a responsibility to clean up their cars. People taking action on the campaign sent messages directly to the car manufacturers asking them to make cleaner vehicles.

Accomplishments

  • Yahoo.com website of the month (Oct 2007).
  • Educated the public about the link between car exhaust and breast cancer.
  • Activated the public to tell car companies to stop pinkwashing.

What Is the Connection Between Cars and Breast Cancer?

The Science

The chemicals listed below are just some of the toxic compounds found in vehicle exhaust which have been linked to mammary cancer in animals and/or breast cancer in humans.1

  • Benzo[a]pyrene: Benzo[a]pyrene is found in both gasoline and diesel fuel, and humans are exposed to it from the fumes in auto exhaust, as well as from tobacco smoke, charred foods, and smoke from burning wood. Research suggests that exposure to benzo[a]pyrene causes mammary tumors in rats. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies this chemical as probably carcinogenic to humans, and the US National Toxicology Program’s (NTP) 11th Report on Carcinogens lists it as reasonably antici-pated to be carcinogenic to humans. 2 3 Benzo[a]pyrene is a Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon (PAH). PAHs are products of combustion found in gasoline and diesel exhaust, as well as other sources of air pollution. PAHs have been linked to mammary cancers in animal research and breast cancer in hu-man epidemiological studies.4
  • Dibenz[a,h]anthracene: Dibenz[a,h]anthracene, also a PAH, is found in gasoline exhaust, cigarette smoke condensate, soot, and coal tar. Human exposure to dibenz[a,h]anthracene occurs primarily through the smoking of tobacco, inhalation of polluted air, and by ingestion of food and water contaminated with combustion products. 5 It is classified by IARC as probably carcinogenic to humans, and by NTP as reasonably anticipated to be carcinogenic to humans.6 7
  • Benzene: Benzene is widely used in the United States in products such as pesticides, some plastics and rubbers, detergents, crude oil, and gasoline. Benzene is present in the air from automobile exhaust, industrial emissions, and forest fires.8 Exposure to benzene is highest in areas of heavy motor vehicle traffic and around gasoline filling stations. Benzene is known to be carcinogenic to humans, according to both IARC and NTP. 9 10
  • 1,3-Butadiene: 1,3-Butadiene is an industrial chemical present in gasoline, automobile exhaust, and cigarette smoke. Occupational exposures suggest increased rates of multiple cancers, and animal research confirms increased risk of mammary tumors.11 12 IARC lists 1,3-butadiene as probably carcinogenic to humans and NTP lists it as a known human carcinogen.13 14

What Can Car Companies Do?

Technology now exists that would both reduce greenhouse gases and cancer-causing pollutants. Although over the last 30 years the amount of toxic air pollutants being released from cars has been reduced substantially, the number of cars on the road and the distances traveled have significantly increased. Therefore, adopting some of the technologies listed below remains a critically important step toward protecting public health.

  • Reduce tailpipe emissions. Technologies that control exhaust and evaporative emissions already exist, but they are not being used in all vehicle models.
  • Increase fuel efficiency. Better fuel efficiency means less gasoline is used, and less combustion occurs. Since many of the toxic chemicals released in car exhaust are products of combustion, reducing combustion means less pollution. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, car manufacturers have the technology to nearly double fuel efficiency of cars and light trucks.15
  • Create vehicles with alternative fuel options. Technologies now exist to create vehicles that run on fuels that release little to no greenhouse gases or hazardous air pollutants.16

What Can You Do?

  • Use mass transit when available or work to improve mass transit in your area.
  • Carpool when you can.
  • Walk or bike if you can.
  • Telecommute when you can.
  • Buy a cleaner, more fuel efficient vehicle next time you are ready to buy a new car.
  • Run all your errands at once or on the way home from work.
  1. Silent Spring Institute, “Environment and Breast Cancer: Science Review,” Accessed August 9, 2007 at http://www.sciencereview.silentspring.org
  2. International Agency for Research on Chemicals Report, Volume 71, 1999. Available at http://monographs.iarc.fr/ENG/Monographs/vol71/volume71.pdf
  3. Report on Carcinogens, Eleventh Edition, January 2005; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, National Toxicology Program.
  4. MD Gammon et al., “Environmental Toxins and Breast Cancer on Long Island. I. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon DNA adducts,” Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention 11: 677-685.
  5. International Agency for Research on Chemicals, 1983 vol. 32, p.299.
  6. International Agency for Research on Chemicals Report, Volume 71.
  7. Report on Carcinogens, Eleventh Edition.
  8. Report on Carcinogens, Eleventh Edition.
  9. Report on Carcinogens, Eleventh Edition.
  10. International Agency for Research on Chemicals Report, Volume 17.
  11. International Agency for Research on Chemicals Report, Volume 17.
  12. RL Melnick & RC Sills, “Comparative Carcinogenicity of 1,3 butadiene, isoprene, and chloroprene in Rats and Mice,” Chemico-Biological Interactions 135-136; 2001, pp. 27-42.
  13. Report on Carcinogens, Eleventh Edition
  14. International Agency for Research on Chemicals Report, Volume 17.
  15. Union of Concerned Scientists, “Working Truck Fuel Economy: The Facts,” Accessed August 9, 2007 at http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_vehicles/cars_pickups_suvs/working-truck-fuel-economy-facts.html.
  16. Union of Concerned Scientists, “Backgrounder: Fuel-Cell Vehicles,” Accessed August 9, 2007 at http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_vehicles/cars_pickups_suvs/fuelcell-vehicles.html.
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