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We can decide that the presence of cancer-causing substances in our air, water, and food is too expensive. A 2009 study, for example, has found that coal mining in Appalachia costs the region five times more in premature deaths, including from cancer, than it provides to the region in jobs, taxes, and economic benefits.

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We can change our thinking. Rather than viewing the chemical adulteration of our environment and our bodies as the inevitable price of convenience and progress, we can decide that cancer is inconvenient and toxic pollution archaic and primitive. We can start seeing the creation of carcinogens as the result of outmoded technologies. We can demand green engineering and green chemistry. We can let our systems of industry and agriculture know that they are suffering from a design flaw.

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The even better news is that the synthetic chemicals linked to cancer largely derive from the same two sources as those responsible for climate change: petroleum and coal.

Sandra Steingraber. Living Downstream: An Ecologist’s Personal Investigation of Cancer and the Environment  (Foreword to Second Edition). Da Capo Press. Kindle Edition.

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