Synthetic chemicals are everywhere. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring opened our eyes to this fact. Everyone has a toxic body burden. Everyone is contaminated with chemical pollutants, chemicals that at one time did not exist at all in nature, chemicals that have now become integral parts of nature. On average every human being carries more than 250 chemicals within their bodies.
This is a dangerous and extremely worrying predicament to be in. We have never in our millions of years of evolution encountered chemicals of this ‘nature’ within our physical shell. We don’t know how these chemical pollutants are interacting within our bodies and we don’t know what could occur from their interactions.
In the last few decades it has become apparent that certain synthetic chemicals have the ability to interfere with various parts of the endocrine system. First it was the chemicals that had the ability to disrupt or mimic the hormone oestrogen. Now it seems that all chemically-mediated message systems within the human body are vulnerable to endocrine disruptors. There are disruptors for nearly all the hormone systems, from the sex steroid hormones like testosterone to thyroid hormones.
But chemical-mediated mechanisms are not only utilized by the endocrine system. Other crucial processes also use chemicals to operate. The human body is a web of delicate chemical processes; delicate because some of the processes are controlled by chemicals that are present in the smallest possible amounts (in some cases as small as parts per trillion).
Most of the 250 synthetic chemicals within our bodies exist in extremely small amounts; some are barely detectable using modern chemical analyzing techniques. But this doesn’t really affect their level of toxicity. Extremely low doses of a chemical pollutant can potentially be as dangerous as large acute doses.
The only difference is that while large doses produces a relatively rapid physical response, small dose can produce a response that is just as physically damaging but takes decades to show up (as in the cases of DES where the oestrogen mimic was given to pregnant women as a cure for miscarriages; only to result in them giving birth to daughters that eventually went on to develop cancers as well as a number of reproductive problems after they reached puberty).
The effects of these chemical pollutants within our bodies are impossible to predict, there’s just too many of them, but it seems that they are having an effect on us. A number of reproductive ailments have been on the increase for a number of years with no sign of a slowdown. Questions about the reproductive health of men has been under scrutiny for the last few decades with semen levels still seemingly decreasing at an alarming rate in certain industrialized countries.
The evidence is accumulating, but while the scientists, industrialists and politicians are arguing about their significance, the downward trends are still continuing unabated in the background.
Our growing toxic body burden is becoming a serious problem. It is a biological time bomb on the verge of explosion. The only way we can stop it is to quickly realize how incredibly damaging it is and quickly take measures to diffuse it by changing some of our beliefs and most importantly changing our practices.
Synthetic chemicals should not be everywhere, least of all in ourselves.
Reas Johnson is a microbiology student, who loves writing about popular health related issues. We all need to be informed about the state of our environment.
Only from been aware can we hope to protect ourselves from the hidden dangers in our everyday world.
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