Chemical Soup

Four Canadian politicians were voluntarily tested for polutants by the environmental group Environmental Defense. The full report found:

Many of the chemicals detected in the politicians are associated with adverse health effects. In total, 54 carcinogens, 37 hormones disruptors, 16 respiratory disruptors, 54 reproductive/developmental toxins, and 33 neurotoxins were detected in study volunteers.

On the news report that I saw, one critic claimed that this story was entirely alarmist. The level of chemicals found were quite small. However, even though the level of these toxic chemicals may be below some derived amount deemed as “safe”, how do these chemicals interact. There have been no studies done to investigate the interactions of these various chemicals. How can there be – we are floating in sea of chemicals and have no idea how they really work, despite all our “rigorous” scientific testing. How do we test the interactions of so many different substances ?

The unforeseen effects of our ignorance are very real. There has been an increase in ‘precocious puberty’. The standard explanation is some hormone imbalance in the brain. However, there are environmental and food related cause for precocious puberty.

What’s going on? Although scientists have yet to prove definitive causes, many suspect that hormone-mimicking chemicals, obesity and stress all contribute to precocious puberty. The chemicals, often called endocrine disruptors, are of particular concern because they’re everywhere — in food, water, personal-care products, some plastics and many consumer goods.

We are living in a chemical cesspool that effects children and families. The original report Toxic Nation calls for Canadians to get the same protection as Europeans and Americans from the assault of pollutants. Clearly the political will is less than present if it took a third report — the toxic politician report— to get media and public attention. I hope this is a good start, but I am sure people will just let it fade into the noise of our lives. Do any of these chemicals affect memory and good judgement? We are not unlike ancient Romans transporting water in lead pipes.

Eventually, as a host of mysterious maladies became more common, some Romans began to suspect a connection between the metal and these illnesses. But the culture’s habits never changed, and some historians believe that many among the Roman aristocracy suffered from lead poisoning.


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