Brenda Adelman, SONOMA COUNTY GAZETTE
April is the month we celebrate the Earth, it’s bountiful resources, its diverse creatures and cultures and all its beauty. It is also the time when we need to consider the interrelationship of all life forms. Yet we tend to compartmentalize information and struggle to comprehend the vast web we all weave, seldom noting that every thing is connected to everything else, and every action reverberates through life’s web.
Small amounts can have huge consequences
Endocrinologists discovered awhile back that minute exposures to endocrine disrupting toxins (such as most pesticides, herbicides, etc.) can have cataclysmic effects on fetal development and adult organ systems; it can cause reproductive cancer; it can feminize male frogs; it can masculinize female sea gulls; it is suspected of causing heart disease, autism, Alzheimer’s, obesity, and more. The problems created by these chemicals may cause as much harm as global warming, since effects can be carried down through unborn generations.
We live in a chemical world that is significantly under regulated. It is surmised that 80,000 or more chemicals exist with hundreds of new ones produced each year. We have little knowledge about how they interact with one another. Many of these are found in our bodies, including fetal blood and mother’s milk. Earth’s species are apparently going through their sixth major extinction, and the first caused entirely by man, yet we go on about our business as though none of this is real.
Risk assessment needs an overhaul
We still rely on conventional risk assessment to determine harm; holding the common, antiquated assumption that “…the dose makes the poison”. BEFORE regulations are promulgated and enforced, suspected toxins are allowed full use. In the case of tertiary wastewater reuse, many substances are assumed to be safe at low doses even while more and more scientific evidence indicates that is not always the case. (The Clean Water Act list of 125 priority pollutants has had no additions in over 25 years.) On this basis, the State Water Board found that monitoring for endocrine disrupting chemicals was unnecessary before irrigating parks, playgrounds, and schools where children play.
Many scientists, especially those in the field of endocrinology, now call for application of the precautionary principle, defined as: “When human activities may lead to morally unacceptable harm that is scientifically plausible but uncertain, actions shall be taken to avoid or diminish that harm.”, but regulators have largely turned a deaf ear to real reform.