Endocrine Specialist Bozeman MT
By Alan Reder
In Hollywood’s 1967 classic The Graduate, our floundering hero, recent law school grad Ben Braddock, wonders what to do with his life when a family friend offers him a surefire career tip: “I want to say one word to you—plastics.” While Braddock doesn’t follow that advice, it was indeed solid counsel for that era. In 2008, however, plastics face a far more troubled future. The crux of the problem? Endocrine disruption.
Endocrine disrupters are chemicals found in scads of widely used products. They resemble hormones in their chemical structure, leading many researchers to believe that the body treats them as hormones, too. Once inside us, endocrine disrupters interfere with normal hormonal processes, causing genetic damage, especially in developing fetuses and children. Among other things, the chemicals throw sexual development off course, make reproductive systems go haywire, and cause hormone- related cancers. While the only proof of harm comes from animal testing, the threat appears to extend to humans as well.
Endocrine disruption flared as a hot topic in 1996, sparked by the book Our Stolen Future (Penguin, 1996), by zoologist Theo Colborn and others. By tying some alarming research to some just-as-alarming human trends, Colborn demonstrated that major impacts from endocrine disrupters might already be affecting the human population. For instance, the authors suggested that breast cancer rates, which have risen sharply since the mid-20th century, might be related to the widespread use of pesticides and herbicides that contain hormone-mimicking chemicals. Studies at the Strang Cornell Cancer Research Laboratory showed that the chemicals appear to push estrogen metabolism in a direction that profoundly boosts cancer risk.
In the 12 years since Colborn published Our Stolen Future, the federal government has responded to research-based questions about endocrine disrupters mainly by protecting corporations that profit from them. Yet evidence that Colborn and her coauthors were right continues to mount.
For a microcosm of what’s been happening with endocrine disrupters in the US, consider the case of the widely used chemical bisphenol-A (BPA). Industry loves BPA because it makes polycarbonate plastic clear and nearly unbreakable. An extensive body of literature supports the view that this chemical, originally developed as a synthetic estrogen, can cause hormonal chaos. “We’re talking about hundreds of studies with large sample sizes by the world’s premier scientists in endocrinology, neurobiology, and developmental biology—published in the major journals in the world,” says University of Missouri-Columbia neurobiologist Fred vom Saal, a pioneer in BPA research. But the FDA has so far declared BPA safe, citing instead two tiny studies. Those studies, unlike the independent research that counters them, were funded by the chemical industry.
The government has also failed to act against phthalates—chemicals used mainly to ...
Author: Alan Reder
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