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Our Stolen Future
Book Review:

"Thugs on the biological information highway."

by Pat Cody
Berkeley, California

Our Stolen Future:
Are We Threatening Our Fertility, Intelligence, and Survival?
A Scientific Detective Story
by Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski, and John Peterson Myers.
Published by Dutton/Penguin. $24.95.

Principal author Theo Colborn has collected research on man-made chemicals and their effects on animals and humans, to uncover a disturbing pattern. Life on our planet is being changed and challenged by thousands of chemicals in our environment. Thousands of chemicals in our environment. No one thought that some of these compounds, such as those used as pesticides, would leach into the water supply and effect the fertility and body formation of fish, the birds that feed on them and ultimately those at the top of the food chain -- us.

In the past, government health agencies have looked at chemicals from the perspective of cancer risk. They have not studied a slower-emerging danger, that of hazards to reproduction. The authors write:

"Hormone-disrupting chemicals are not classical poisons or typical carcinogens. They play by different rules. They defy the linear logic of current testing protocols built on the assumption that higher doses do more damage. For this reason, contrary to our long-held assumptions, screening chemicals for cancer risk has not always protected us from other kinds of harm. Some hormonally active chemicals appear to pose little if any risk of cancer . . . such chemicals are typically not poisons in the normal sense. Until we recognize this, we will be looking in the wrong places, asking the wrong questions, and talking at cross purposes ... .

"At levels typically found in the environment, hormone-disrupting chemicals do not kill cells nor do they attack DNA. Their target is hormones, the chemical messengers that move about constantly within the body's communications network. Hormonally active synthetic chemicals are thugs on the biological information highway that sabotage vital communication. They mug the messengers or impersonate them. They jam signals. They scramble messages. They sow disinformation. They wreak all manner of havoc. Because hormone messages orchestrate many critical aspects of development, from sexual differentiation to brain organization, hormone-disrupting chemicals pose a particular hazard before birth and early in life. . . . The process that unfolds in the womb and creates a normal, healthy baby depends on getting the right hormone message to the fetus at the right time."

To summarize:

  • Know your water and urge at least monthly testing, especially for pesticides.
  • Children and women of child bearing years should avoid fish contaminated with dioxin, PCBs and DDE.
  • Avoid animal fat as much as possible. Meats and cheeses are major source of dioxin exposure.
  • Buy or raise organically grown fruits and vegetables.
  • Minimize contact between plastic and food and use glass or porcelain for micro-wave cooking.
  • Wash hands frequently.
  • Never assume a pesticide or insecticide is safe on household pets.

In the public sphere of our lives:

  • Shift the burden of proof to chemical manufacturers. The current system ''assumes that chemicals are innocent until proven guilty. This is wrong. The burden of proof should work the opposite way... ."
  • Set standards -- now based on a 150-lb. adult male -- that protect the most vulnerable, children and the unborn.
  • Require producers to monitor their products for contamination.
  • Support a comprehensive research effort, and redesign of the manufacture and use of chemicals.

This book's "scientific detective story" has followed the clues and leads us to the culprits. It is up to us to carry out the judgment for humans and defend ourselves.

The author, Pat Cody, is founder and program director of DES Action. DES Action's web site is at .

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Published in In Motion Magazine - November 16, 1997