How chemicals are finding their way into our bodies through various modes of exposure was the topic of my Oct. 16 column. My own awareness of the dangers of chemicals in the wrong places at the wrong times reaches back to my first pregnancy some 47 years ago. Nothing focuses one's concerns more than realizing this new life forming inside you can be affected by everything you eat, drink, smoke and even by some things that you touch. Pregnancy is, or should be, a time when new parents-to-be have acquired enough maturity to take on the ultimate responsibility of growing another human being.
We tend to think of responsibility in the context of willful choices. But, in the case of pollutants, especially the ones we cannot see or smell or even know exist, we have no choice about being responsible. We are at the mercy of whatever government agencies regulate or allow the release of contaminates into our surroundings. Even worse, we are sold products that are not regulated or ever tested for their effects on us. And, when power politics is what makes the decisions about how much exposure to a pesticide, or how much leaching from a plastic item, or how much toxic absorption via skin contact, or how much bad air lungs should tolerate, we can be assured our health is in serious trouble. Yet, we rarely have knowledge of what science, if any, has been applied by political agencies making these choices for us. Therefore, we have no input opportunities in matters, which can directly affect our lives as well as the life of a developing baby.
Most of the studies we hear about regarding environmental health relate to cancer and the upper levels of exposure that humans can be dosed with before deadly consequences might set in. What is rarely referenced, however, is how low doses can affect multiple aspects of our well-being. In my previous article, I used the term "endocrine disruption," in relation to how some man-made chemicals in the environment mess with our hormonal systems, disrupting how they are supposed to work inside us. Because low doses haven't been where research has concentrated its attention, many of the effects of disrupting chemicals have hidden under the radar.
While searching for information about chemicals injected into the earth to "frack" the shale strata in central Arkansas during the natural gas drilling boom, I discovered TEDX, The Endocrine Disruption Exchange, founded in 2003 by Dr. Theo Colborn. Their mission is to "evaluate and interpret scientific evidence on the effects of common chemicals in order to prevent harm to human and animal health." And, this small non-profit research institute also procures studies from around the globe and maintains a database of well over 50,000 scientific references on hormone function.
Dr. Colborn has been compared to Rachel Carson and described as "a visionary leader, who excelled at synthesizing scientific findings across disciplines." In 1991, Colborn brought together a diverse spectrum of scientists ranging from wildlife biologists and human health specialists to ecologists, pharmacologists, toxicologists, endocrinologists and even anthropologists. They agreed: "Many compounds introduced into the environment by human activity are capable of disrupting the endocrine system of animals, including fish, wildlife, and humans. The consequences of such disruption can be profound because of the crucial role hormones play in controlling development." The TEDX site states that some hormonal harm can "include infertility, endometriosis, early puberty, breast and prostate cancer, thyroid disorders, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, obesity, diabetes, asthma, immune disorders, and more."
One of the most enlightening, if somewhat frightening, charts on the TEDX website is its, "Critical Windows of Development Timeline." The 38 weeks of human fetal growth are superimposed with studies that have shown disruptive effects of chemicals in animals. Before her death in 2014, Colborn made a public plea for the government to develop a council on "inner space," every bit as grand and even more important than outer space exploration, in order to protect human health at all ages.
Now with an office in Research Triangle Park in North Carolina, Dr. Carol Kwiatkowski, whom Colborn chose to succeed her, continues efforts to inform the scientific community and the public about endocrine disruption. She will be the featured speaker at 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9, at St. Paul's Episcopal Church Fellowship Hall for a "Networking the Environment" program addressing environmental activists and other interested attendees on how chemicals impact various environmental issues. I've helped set up this event with other organizations.
The event is open to the public, but those who plan to attend are encouraged to email me at the address below so we can best plan for the those we know are coming.
Commentary on 11/06/2018
Print Headline: What seeps in