Friday, November 8, 2013
Scientists have just begun to debate the effects of endocrine disruptors in earnest; and there's plenty of cause for alarm. We're flooding the environment with chemicals of this kind; and one thing we can be sure of is that we share the biochemistry that triggers the problems across a tremendous range of species and creatures. That is to say, if an endocrine disruptor affects us, it almost certainly affects other animals... and may well also affect microbes.
BPA and other xenoestrogens wreak havoc on ecosystems; but the subtlest effects may well be at the microscopic level where—let's face it— the chemical interactions all take place. "Trace" amounts of an estrogen mimic may not seem to have much effect on a human being, but what they may do to much smaller organisms is not only impossible to see, it's very difficult to evaluate. The incentives to study impact on microbiological communities is low; researchers find it difficult to attract funding to study things no one can see; and the public certainly isn't interested. Even worse, the systems being affected are extremely complex, and it's difficult to know just where to begin. So there's been a dearth of insights into the effects of endocrine disruptors; and at the same time, industries dedicated to the manufacture and sale of the chemistry are fighting to keep their products on the market.
What's sobering is to consider that we live in a veritable sea of these chemicals. The tissue of every person you know is saturated with foreign substances, many potentially toxic; and our children are growing up in a pool of this stuff. Most of it is entirely unregulated; industry seems to have the ability to put anything it wants to out in the market without regard for long-term consequences.
It's clear that worldwide governments ought to exercise much tighter controls on the introduction of novel and unknown chemistry into the manufacturing environment and the food chain.
This is an essential principle to remember. Almost anything that ends up being produced for the manufacturing environment ultimately ends up somewhere in the food chain. If we aren't eating it; smaller organisms are eating it; and everywhere, when it comes to chemistry, it's affecting the microbes around us. Manufacturing with the use of sophisticated chemistry is creating trillions of tiny little Frankensteins around us, unseen parts of chemical experimentation. With the literally trillions of experiments of this kind of better taking place with the introduction of foreign chemistry into ecosystems, it's only a matter of time before one of the Frankensteins turns out to be a true monster, as opposed to a caricature of one.
It may seem like paranoia to filter your water and eat organic food; but, especially for families with younger children, this may be the first and potentially only line of defense against exposure to disruptive chemistry that will affect childhood development in negative ways.