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America the beautiful will soon be only a foggy memory. The majestic mountains and crystal-clear waters have been transformed into polluted air and filthy city streets. The ethereal birds that once flew now lay limp and lifeless, covered in petroleum.

This home of the free and the brave is now the home of the greedy and the careless. Our natural resources are being depleted rapidly, while sickness infects our brothers and sisters.

Cancer is eating away at our population like pollution is eating away at America's beauty. The cancer rate keeps climbing, yet we keep building more factories that pollute our air and water.

The rivers and streams have dead fish. People can't even swim in the local pond anymore. The city air reeks of a metallic stench, and pollutes our lungs with every breath.

Cities and towns that used to rely on their fresh water for drinking water are now forced to purchase water. We must treasure our gift of nature by changing our priorities.

What would our ancestors think of the way we are treating the earth? What beauty will be left for our children? Will they ever swim in a clean pond? Years ago, people would swim in their local streams and waterways.

Now we are forced to go to pools and beaches. This is all because of pollution. Will our children's children ever see rolling hills and valleys not marred by pollution?

Our eyes witness the devastation, while our bodies become weak from the poisons we have unleashed into our environment. Yet, we do not even consider the detrimental consequences of our luxuries. The everyday use of cars, chemicals, and landfills not only endanger our wildlife, but also poison our water and air.

We are exterminating our children and ourselves. The cancer rate is climbing at epidemic proportions, and we are partially responsible. Take a closer look at everything that you do on a daily basis, and ask yourself what can you do to help.

So many of us just choose to do nothing. The people who are complacent and unwilling to make an effort to do their part are the most infuriating of all. Perhaps many of us Americans are in denial. Maybe they wish to ignore the fact that in many areas the cancer rates for particular cancers are spiraling out of control.

For the last 50 years, the breast cancer rate has been rising in every area of the industrialized world. From 1973 to 1988, the U.S. breast cancer rate rose 26 percent. American women now have one chance in eight of developing breast cancer at some point in their lives (American Cancer Society, Cancer Facts & Figures 1996).

Many studies have shown that adults in the nation's most polluted cities are 15% to 17% more likely to die prematurely than those in cities with the cleanest air (Source: Dockery, et al., Harvard School of Public Health, 1995).

Certain chemicals or substances used in the workplace may put people at an increased risk for developing certain types of cancers. Health hazards from asbestos dust have been recognized in many workers. Employees who are at the highest risk are in the ship-building trades, asbestos mining and milling, manufacturing of asbestos textiles used in roofing and other asbestos products, insulation work in the construction and building trades, brake repair, and a variety of many other trades.

Among children ages 1-14, cancer causes more deaths in the U.S. than any other disease (American Cancer Society, Cancer Facts & Figures 1996). Overall, cancer in children especially has risen 10.8% in the past decade (Miller, B.A., et al (eds.), SEER Cancer Statistics Review 1973-1990, National Cancer Institute, NIH pub. no.93-2789, 1993).

Why are there so many cases of a particular type cancer in a certain area? This is called a cancer cluster, which is a greater than expected number of cases of cancer within a group of people in a geographic area or a certain period of time. In the 1960s, researchers discovered a number of cases of mesothelioma, a rare cancer of the lining of the chest and abdomen. They traced the development of mesothelioma to asbestos. This is how we came to discover that asbestos was a carcinogen.

There are states and cities even that have incredibly high cancer rates for certain, specific types of cancer. The only explanation for this is pollution in certain areas or chance. There are many environmental factors that cause cancer, killing countless people. Since it is hard to prove, the jury is still out on many of these cancer clusters.

We can save cans and glass to recycle, conserve our energy consumption, and fight to reform America's laws on pollution. When a new landfill or plant that uses toxic chemicals comes into your area, you can take action by boycotting the plant or even organizing protest.

Anyone can write to his or her legislators without much effort. These are a few things that anyone can do. We can all try to actively do something about the problem.

No one wants a polluted country. We do not want our loved ones to die of cancer. Every little thing can help. Be part of the solution, not the problem. How are you going to do your part?