Our Toxins, Ourselves?

By Christine Cupaiuolo — December 20, 2006

A two-part series in Women’s eNews explores the dangers of exposure to toxins and synthetic chemicals and the potential impact on reproduction and human disease. In part one, writer Molly M. Ginty writes about signs in the animal kingdom that could portend health problems for humans:

In California, female sea lions are spontaneously aborting their fetuses.

In the Great Lakes area, mother gulls are sharing nests and raising eggs together because their male partners have forgotten how to parent.

In upstate New York, female frogs have as much testosterone in their bodies as males.

Scientists say these aberrations all share a common link: exposure to toxic chemicals called “endocrine disruptors,” which pollute the air, soil and water.

“At the rate this pollution is going, we will likely have population decreases in many wildlife species, especially amphibians and fish that are more susceptible to toxins because their skin is constantly exposed to these chemicals in an aquatic environment,” says Sarah Janssen, a science fellow at the New York-based Natural Resources Defense Council.

“These animals serve as canaries in the coal mine for human females, teaching us how synthetic chemicals might affect our nervous system development, immune function, fertility and other health outcomes.”

It was quite frustrating to read that in 1996 Congress called on the EPA to step up its study of endocrine disruptors, but the EPA has yet to do so because of complications setting up the research.

In part two, Ginty discusses two studies slated for 2007 about the relationship of synthetic chemicals to disease. California will be the first state to measure chemical contaminants in people an attempt to discover which pollutants are most common. The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development will begin a $2.5 billion study to track children’s exposures to chemicals, from birth to age 21.

Plus: Read an earlier story by Molly M. Ginty on women pushing for more eco-friendly products. From the Environmental Working Group, the “Body Burden” — findings of studies on pollution in people.

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