The funding, which represents a rise of 56 percent over last year’s funding level, will allow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Environmental Health Lab to:

  • double the level of technical support to communities investigating unusual incidences of cancer or other diseases
  • identify regions of the US in which individuals are at increased risk of dangerous exposure to carcinogens and other toxic substances
  • evaluate the impact of public health emergencies

Because of the lack of evidence pinpointing the environmental cause of cancers and many other diseases, these studies, it is hoped, will play a role in creating more effective diagnostic tests and preventive techniques.

Environmental contaminants are associated with a wide range of birth defects and other diseases. Of the 120,000 US babies born each year with a birth defect, 8,000 die during their first year of life, making birth defects the leading cause of infant mortality in the US and contributing substantially to childhood morbidity and long-term disability.

Hundreds of thousands of cases of asthma and lead poisoning are also associated with environmental contaminants.

Initial scientific evidence demonstrates that increased risk of breast cancer may be associated with unknown environmental factors. According to the American Cancer Society, one out of nine American women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime, and breast cancer is now the leading cause of cancer for women between the ages of 35 and 54. Despite decades of research, over half of all breast cancer cases cannot be explained by known risk factors, such as genetic predisposition, reproductive history, and diet.

Research also suggests that an increased risk of prostate cancer may be associated with unknown environmental factors. Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer found in American men other than skin cancer, and disproportionately affects African-American men. Researchers estimate that only 10 percent of prostate cancers are due to genetic predisposition.

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