Thursday, December 22, 2011

Do You Get It?

Here on Cape Cod, we do not need four herbicides sprayed under our power lines. (Tell the EPA to ban glyphosate by signing this petition.) Toxic chemicals will get into our sole-source aquifer. Traces will end up in drinking water. Years from now, our children will look back and say, why did you not stop this?

Did you know that a study, relating to Cape Cod, was published by Boston University this week? The neurotoxin PCE, used from the late 1960s to the 1980s as vinyl-lining in the pipes of eight Cape communities – but, fortunately, not Wellfleet – leached into drinking water. Cape Codders who were exposed to PCE before birth, or as infants and toddlers, are believed to have an increased risk of drug-related problems, "risky behavior," later in life. (Hat tip to Sharyn, who forwarded this article.) Will these people also get cancer, since PCE is a carcinogen?

Last week The New York Times reported a probable link between the use of Tylenol (acetaminophen) in childhood and asthma.

How many new studies do we need? Every week fresh information on the side effects of synthetic chemicals pops up and nothing is done about it. The FDA and the EPA are like hobbled horses. Chemical companies, bent on profit, hold the reins now. Yesterday EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson called for limits on mercury emissions, but will these new standards get blocked by Congress and the courts?

If I sound a bit hysterical, it's because I am. Last winter I read Pollution: The Making of Our Chemically Altered Environment by Benjamin Ross and Steven Amter, a book which describes how the chemical industry has systematically avoided regulation. These policies continue. When will we all wake up?

There has been a major miscalculation over the 60 years since the end of World War II. Synthetic chemicals have residual effects beyond their original use. We need to take this into account ourselves, since our government seems incapable of doing so. Toxic chemicals, once created and exploited, can remain in the environment for decades and will harm us. We may absorb them through the water we drink. We may take some into our bodies in the air we breathe, like, for instance, diesel fumes, (which may soon be better regulated in Boston). They can be on non-stick cookware and get into cooked food. Even non-organic food is dangerous, laden with pesticide residue and carrying the risk of BPA leached from packaging.

I feel like Cassandra, crying a warning. In shock I watched a video from Monsanto in which company reps explained to farmers that they must do whatever it takes to rid their fields of weeds resistant to Roundup. No thought is given to the toxic effect of additional pesticides in our food and groundwater. No one speaks out to ask why Roundup Ready crops have failed and require more pesticides, not less.

McKay Jenkins gets it. His book What’s Gotten Into Us? Staying Healthy in a Toxic World sounds the alarm. He hopes that if we change our focus and approach the problem as “a health issue that affects kids”, environmentalists may get more traction.

Carcinogen abolitionist Sandra Steingraber gets it. The author of Living Downstream and Raising Elijah got cancer at age 20. She looked around and asked herself why. Her examination of the evidence led to conclusions, which she explains at the Breast Cancer Action Web site.

I, too, wonder at the disconnect between what the “scientific community knows about environmental carcinogens (quite a lot) and what cancer patients are told (very little).”

How can we change this situation? Elect legislators who get it. Support groups like Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families.
In the meantime, do the best you can to protect your loved ones from the stealth toxins that have become part of 21st century life.

I like to hope that, over the past few years, posts like this one have helped you become more aware of the dangers posed by synthetic chemicals in the environment. Would I be correct in this assumption? I know, at least, that my own adult children pay more attention to the pollution of food, water, and air. Do you?