The problem of endocrine disruption seems to be overlooked by many people, but scientists and health experts raised a warning [‘The Wingspread Statement’] over 20 years ago. Especially when exposure occurs at vulnerable points in development—during pregnancy or infancy—even incredibly small concentrations of these pervasive compounds contribute to weakened immune systems, reduced intelligence, increased aggression, and reproductive disorders when exposure. [Forget parts per million, we’re talking about effects from exposures measured in parts per trillion.]
Theo Colborn’s Our Stolen Future received quite a bit of attention when it was published—much of it focused on sensationalizing news of reduced sperm counts in men—but we don’t hear it discussed in the media or in public discourse these days. In fact, the mountain of evidence is being ignored and efforts to reduce the harm are blocked: elected officials support natural gas development despite the fact that many of the chemicals used in fracking also are known or potential endocrine disruptors, and EPA continues to allow widespread use of another endocrine disruptor and carcinogen, the pesticide 2,4-D.
These substances are especially problematic because they bio-accumulate in fatty tissues and are now found in everyone! Prevention- and sustainability-oriented organizations such as Health Care without Harm and Food & Water Watch have given it some attention, but not enough.
One of the big problems is that most safety testing looks at chemicals in isolation and to assume that effect is proportional to dose, but this is not how things work in the real world. First of all, we are exposed to a stew containing multiple pollutants whose effects are synergistic. In addition, it has been shown that some endocrine-disrupting chemicals, among others, have little immediate effect on adults, but can have powerful effects on a developing embryo and on young children. We are talking about active effects in concentrations as low as a few parts per trillion!
Many people seem to be unaware there is an endocrine-disruption problem, and most are clueless about the magnitude of the problem. These chemicals are almost everywhere—in household products, toys, plastic food and beverage containers, herbicides & insecticides, and many others. In addition to those we bring upon ourselves, wind and water carry farm chemicals into our communities, and some industries routinely discharge them in waste water.