The poisoned generation
November 3rd 2009, 10:04
Perhaps the most underappreciated health scandal in modern times is the fact that, every day, we are all subjected to some 80,000 drugs-virtually all of which have not undergone a single regulatory test before their release on the market.
By 'drugs', in this case, I'm referring to the synthetic man-made compounds that are part of the industrial 'chemical revolution'. Now found ubiquitously in everything-from pesticides to personal toiletries and cleaning products-these agents have made their way into our drinking water, soils, air, food and, hence, our fatty tissues-and now, as this month's cover story discloses, even our eggs and sperm.
The latest findings on these industrial chemicals, as WDDTY deputy editor Joanna Evans reports, suggest that they could be a major source of infertility in both men and women. What's more, some of these toxic chemicals are making their way into fetuses, affecting their fertility in turn, all the way down the generational line.
The situation today echoes the scandal of diethylstilboestrol (DES), the wonder drug in the 1950s that was supposed to prevent miscarriage. The side-effects of the drug only began showing up in the adult offspring some 30 years later in the form of reproductive problems and cancer.
Nevertheless, that was an isolated compound that was allowed to be given as a test drug before the advent of 'informed consent'. As a 2005 study from Stanford University and the Collaborative on Health and the Environment (CHE) concluded: "All of us now carry in our bodily tissues and fluids a virtual stew of heavy metals and hundreds of synthetic chemicals"-some of which persist in the body for years.
The utter regulatory freedom that industrial giants now enjoy makes the DES scandal pale in comparison. As Stanford University discovered, there is no requirement for the chemical industry to test their products for effects on human health prior to their release onto the market other than in the case of certain pesticides and food additives.
The burden of safety testing falls entirely upon the shoulders of federal and state agencies-but only after the products have been made available to consumers and distributed throughout the environment- and then, only if someone raises concerns over specific health risks.
"The result," states the Stanford report, "is that more than 85 per cent of the 80,000 synthetic chemicals registered have never been assessed for their effects on human health." The other worrying aspect is the closing-the-barn-door-after-the-horse-has-bolted aspect of any potential crackdown. Even if organizations such as the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began to put proper systems of regulation in place, these chemicals are now so pervasive in our waterways and foodchain that it could be many generations before we are free of them.
Forty-seven years ago, Rachel Carson wrote The Silent Spring, about the catastrophic effects of chemicals on the futures of plants and animals. Little did she know that she might be referring to the human race as well.