Independent warnings have been issued by two major medical organizations about toxic chemicals and products that are found all around us. They say that there are unregulated substances that could be linked to breast and prostate cancer, genital deformities, obesity, diabetes and infertility.
The International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics warned, in a landmark statement, that, “Widespread exposure to toxic environmental chemicals threatens healthy human reproduction.”
These warnings should serve as a reminder to us that the chemical industry has adapted the mantle of Big Tobacco, and are minimizing science and resisting regulation in such a way that can ultimately bring devastating harm to unsuspecting citizens.
The same thing that happen in the 1950s — when researchers were discovering that cigarettes caused cancer, but the political system was slow at responding— is happening with toxic chemicals now.
The focus of the gynecology federation is on endocrine disrupters, which is the chemicals that imitate sex hormones that can often confuse the body. Endocrine disrupters are found in pesticides, plastics, shampoos and cosmetics, cash register receipts, food can linings, flame retardants and many other products.
The organization goes on to caution that: “Exposure to toxic chemicals during pregnancy and lactation is ubiquitous.” They note that virtually every pregnant women in the U.S. has at least 43 different chemical contaminants in her body, before going on to cite a National Cancer Institute report which found that “to a disturbing extent babies are born ‘pre-polluted.’”
This warning now represents the medical mainstream. It was drafted by experts from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the World Health Organization, Britain’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and similar groups.
These are the medical professionals who are dealing with this issue everyday. They are the ones who are confronting the rising cases of hypospadias — which is a birth defect in which boys are born with their urethra opening at the side of their penis instead of the tip — and they are the ones who are treating breast cancer, both of which are linked to early exposure to endocrine disputers.
The Endocrine Society, the international association of doctors and scientists who deal with the hormone system, have also released a warning.
“Emerging evidence ties endocrine-disrupting chemical exposure to two of the biggest public health threats facing society — diabetes and obesity,” the Endocrine Society said in announcing its 150-page “scientific statement.”
The announcement also stated that there is “mounting evidence” which ties endocrine disrupters to infertility, prostate cancer, undescended testicles, testicular cancer, breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer and neurological issues. The problems will apparently arise in adults on occasion because of an exposure to endocrine decades earlier in a fetal stage. The Endocrine Society goes on to warn, “The threat is particularly great when unborn children are exposed.”
Most chemicals that are used to make our everyday products are assumed to be safe unless they are proven otherwise. However, Tracey J. Woodruff of the University of California, San Francisco notes, “One myth about chemicals is that the U.S. government makes sure they’re safe before they go on the marketplace.”
More than 80,000 different chemicals are present in global commerce today, and only a small portion of the chemicals have been rigorously screened for safety. Even if a substance is retired because of the health concerns associated with it, the replacement chemical could be just as bad if not worse.
“It’s frustrating to see the same story over and over,” Professor Woodruff said. “Animal studies, in vitro tests or early human studies show that chemical A causes adverse effects. The chemical industry says, ‘Those are bad studies, show me the human evidence.’ The human evidence takes years and requires that people get sick. We should not have to use the public as guinea pigs.”
While Europe is moving toward testing chemicals before allowing them on the market, the likelihood that the U.S. will follow suit anytime soon is slim because of the power of the chemical lobby. Chemical safety legislation now before the Senate would require the Environmental Protection Agency to start a safety assessment of only 25 chemicals in the first five years — and House legislation isn’t much better.
“There are almost endless parallels with the tobacco industry,” says Andrea Gore, a professor of pharmacology at the University of Texas at Austin and editor of the journal Endocrinology.
At this point, experts say that the best approach you can take is to try to protect yourself, especially if you are a women who or may become pregnant and small children. Tips that they suggest are to try to eat organic, reduce the use of plastics, handle cash register receipts as little as possible, attempt to avoid flame-retardant couches and if you have any questions consult the consumers guides at ewg.org.
Source: The New York Times