Another sensitive issue raised in the report was the risk of brain cancer from cell phones. Scientists are divided on whether there is a link.
Until more research is conducted, the panel recommended that people reduce their usage by making fewer and shorter calls, using hands-free devices so that the phone is not against the head and refraining from keeping a phone on a belt or in a pocket.
Even if cell phones raise the risk of cancer slightly, so many people are exposed that "it could be a large public health burden," Schettler said.
The panel listed a variety of carcinogenic compounds that many people routinely encounter. Included are benzene and other petroleum-based pollutants in vehicle exhaust, arsenic in water supplies, chromium from plating companies, formaldehyde in kitchen cabinets and other plywood, bisphenol A in plastics and canned foods, tetrachloroethylene at dry cleaners, PCBs in fish and other foods and various pesticides.
Chemicals and contaminants might trigger cancer by a variety of means. They can damage DNA, disrupt hormones, inflame tissues, or turn genes on or off.
"Some types of cancer are increasing rapidly," Clapp said, including thyroid, kidney and liver cancers. Others, including lung and breast cancer, have declined.
Some experts are concerned that the report might just sit on a shelf at the White House. But Clapp said the findings are so strongly stated that he is confident the report will be useful to some policymakers, legislators and groups that want tougher occupational health standards or other regulations.
“We’re not going to get any better than this," Clapp said. “This goes farther than what I thought the President's Cancer Panel would go. I’m pleased that they went as far as they did."
Environmental health scientists said they hope the report raises not just the President's awareness of environmental threats, but the public's, since most people are unaware of the dangers.
“This report has stature," Schettler said. “It is a report that goes directly to the president.”
This article originally ran at Environmental Health News, a news source published by Environmental Health Sciences, a nonprofit media company.