Friday, October 08, 2010

What's New On the Bookshelf?

Only one book on our bookshelf this month and it’s a douzy: Our Stolen Future by Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski, and John Peterson Myers. Yesterday I blogged about BPA. A reader wrote in asking how to avoid it. Yes, it can leach out of certain types of plastic, but the chemical also turns up on cash register receipts and pizza boxes. The industry keeps finding new ways to use it. But BPA is not the only endocrine disruptor out there that you need to know about. It is simply the one that seems the most outrageous, being in baby bottles and infant formula cans. It stands out like a bully, on a playground, shaking another kid. You just want to reach out and make it stop. We need to worry about other toxic chemicals, too ....

Our Stolen Future describes how endocrine disruptors can affect unborn children. Turns out we better rethink our lives, from the picture-perfect lawns to flea collars for our pets, know where our water comes from, choose food intelligently, avoid unnecessary exposure. And wash hands even more frequently.

Sometimes I wonder what it's like to be Theo Colborn, whose scientific detective work and vision is described so well in Our Stolen Future. How distressing to have one’s research ignored, although her book is practically a sequel to Silent Spring, as Al Gore points out in the foreword.

I am not a science person. I got a D in physics/chemistry, the easiest of all science courses at Vassar. And, yet, Our Stolen Future contains science that it is urgent for us all to grasp and share.

As I understand it, prenatal exposure to endocrine disruptive chemicals, in the environment of the mother, at certain periods of prenatal development, can create the following problems once this child grows up:

Low sperm counts
Reproductive problems ranging from testicular cancer to endometriosis
Masculinizing females and feminizing males
Increase in hormone-responsive cancers (breast, prostate, uterine)
Enlarged prostate
Smaller penis size ...

You get the idea.

What's more, Dr. Colborn warns of transgenerational exposure, in other words, a problem may not show up until the next generation. And, this book is being ignored. It is so important to recognize the gravity of the threat toxic chemicals pose to humanity and support the bill now before Congress. Tomorrow, we will return to the beach and Wellfleet, but in the meantime, please read through two short excerpts and consider borrowing Our Stolen Future from your local library:

"If this book contains a single prescriptive message, it is this: we must move beyond the cancer paradigm ... The assumptions about toxicity and disease that have framed our thinking for the past three decades are inappropriate and act as obstacles to understanding a different kind of damage.  Hormone-disrupting chemicals are not classical poisons or typical carcinogens.  They play by different rules."

"At levels typically found in the environment, hormone-disrupting chemicals do not kill cells nor do they attack DNA.  Their target is hormones, the chemical messengers that move about constantly within the body's communications network.  Hormonally active synthetic chemicals are thugs on the biological information highway that sabotage vital communication.  They mug the messengers or impersonate them.  They jam signals.  They scramble messages. They sow disinformation.  They wreak all manner of havoc.  Because hormone messages orchestrate many critical aspects of development, from sexual differentiation to brain organization, hormone-disrupting chemicals pose a particular hazard before birth and early in life ... Relatively low levels of contaminants that have no observable impact on adults can have devastating impacts on the unborn.  The process that unfolds in the womb and creates a normal, healthy baby depends on getting the right hormone message to the fetus at the right time.  The key concept in thinking about this kind of toxic assault is chemical messages.  Not poisons, not carcinogens, but chemical messages."