The book "Our Stolen Future" by Theo Colborn and John Peterson Myers, two leading environmentalists and Dianne Dumanoski, an environmental journalist, list the compelling effects of chemical contamination revealed from wildlife studies, laboratory experiments and human data. Synthetic chemicals are now linked to reproductive problems: a low sperm count (the male sperm count has plummeted by 50% since 1940 worldwide), infertility, genital and urethra abnormalities, the feminization of males, the masculization of females and hormonally triggered human diseases such as breast and prostrate cancer. Other symptoms include neurological and developmental disorders in children, the abnormal functioning of the thyroid, endocrine and immune system and mental and emotional development.
The danger we face in being exposed to industrial chemical contaminates is not simply disease and death. Something more sinister than straightforward poisoning may be occurring-the actual destruction of our human potential and our ability to reproduce.
Carcinogens are poisons that kill cells or attack DNA, other man-made chemicals target hormones. These synthetic hormones mimic the effects of natural hormones, usually the female hormone estrogen, by altering the natural synthesis of hormones or altering hormone receptor levels. The effects most often appear in the offspring, not the exposed parent. Many mothers are unknowingly passing their chemical legacy on to their babies through their womb and through their breast milk.
Eighty thousand chemicals have been registered with the Environmental Protection Agency in the last 60 years. Twenty new chemicals enter the market a week. Few are properly tested. These chemicals include pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, industrial detergents, and household cleaners. They are found everywhere in our water, air, soil, and food. They may even lurk in unexpected places such as the nonylphenols and the alkylphenols found in plastics and personal care items.
The chemicals may be low in the environment but they resist breakdown and accumulate in the body fat of humans over time. Because of food contamination the concentrations are higher in the bodies of animals up the food chain and in humans. This chronic synthetic hormone exposure is unprecedented in our evolutionary experience. However, most research money for investigating the effects of environment contamination of health goes to cancer studies. Also, because industrial chemicals have become a major sector of the global economy, any evidence linking them to serious human and ecological health problems is met with opposition.
Colburn, Myers and Dumanoski chillingly warn, "There is no clean, uncontaminated place, nor any human being who hasn't acquired a considerable load of persistent hormone-disrupting chemicals ... we are altering the fundamental systems that support life."
What can we do? We need to get political. We have to clean up the toxins in our environment and ourselves to reclaim our future.