Are the chemicals we’re putting into the environment causing disease?
Maybe. Almost certainly yes in that there are chemicals that are widely used today that cause toxic effects of some sort. To think otherwise would be hubristic. In the 1970s, for instance, we widely used the chemical DBCP only to learn that it can, at fairly low doses, make men sterile. Oops.
On an unrelated note, mens’ sperm counts may have halved over the past few decades. Instead of making 20 million sperm per ejaculation, the men of today make only 10 million. The exact numbers aren’t established science and there is the possibility for variation but that is fairly chilling.
The worst cases are blatant and perhaps not so bad because of that. When a factory in Japan dumps toxic sewage into its neighborhood, we shake our heads but don’t worry too much. After all, that doesn’t happen in America, right?
Even as we point at specific molecules as being toxic and completely unsafe reality is more perplexing. Mercury was present in some form in vaccines and advocates argued (although the science seems to be against them) that it was a cause of autism. Yet the new type of lightbulb, the fluorescent light bulb, happens to contain mercury which could be an issue if one breaks.
Things are rarely black and white. As science is able to discriminate with greater precision practices that seemed safe are revealed as dangerous. Levels of exposure to something that used to be OK can be revealed to cause birth defects in mice. Bisphenol A came out of nowhere but suddenly can cause a whole variety of toxic effects.
Still, certainly we are better off than those who came before us. After all, at least we don’t drink wine from lead cups as was a Roman practice.
The worst case scenario is that the environmental toxins and toxicants are gradually killing us in a subtle manner. Or that they are causing a rising epidemic of problems like ADHD, autism and male feminization or that they may be behind certain types of cancers.
The best case scenario? That environmental toxins and toxicants do cause damage and problems but our bodies are hardy. We can, and do, handle a great deal daily. Cells grow, cells die, possibly become cancerous, and are possibly removed by an immune response. Or not.
And it’s the or not that scares rational people.
David is a blogger who enjoys analyzing medications and health issues. You can see writing of his at Health and Life.