Our Stolen Future: Are We Threatening Our Fertility, Intelligence and Survival? A Scientific Detective Storyby Published 01 Mar 1997
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Our Stolen Future: Are We Threatening Our Fertility, Intelligence and Survival? A Scientific Detective Story Ebook Description
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"A critically important book that forces us to ask new questions about the synthetic chemicals that we have spread across this earth."--former vice president Al Gore, author of An Inconvenient Truth
Our Stolen Future examines the ways that certain synthetic chemicals interfere with hormonal messages involved in the control of growth and development, especially in the fetus.
The developing fetus uses these natural hormonal messages, which come from both from its own hormone system and from its mother, to guide development. They influence virtually all of the growing individual's characteristics, from determining its sex to controlling the numbers of toes and fingers to shaping intricate details of brain structure.
Scientific research over the last 50 years has revealed that this hormonal control of development is vulnerable to disruption by synthetic chemicals. Through a variety of mechanisms, hormone-disrupting chemicals (also known as endocrine disrupting chemicals or endocrine disruptors) interfere with the natural messages and alter the course of development, with potential effects on virtually all aspects of bodily function.
Our Stolen Future explores the scientific discovery of endocrine disruption. The investigation begins with wildlife, as it was in animals that the first hints of widespread endocrine disruption appeared. The book then examines a series of experiments examining endocrine disruption of animals in the laboratory which show conclusively that fetal exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals can wreak life-long damage. These experiments also reveal some of the biological processes by which these chemicals have their effects, and that endocrine disruption effects can be caused by exposure to infinitesimally small amounts of contaminant. Moving from animals to people, Our Stolen Future summarizes a series of well-studied examples where people have been affected by endocrine disrupting chemicals, most notably the synthetic hormone dietheylstilbestrol (DES), to which several million women were exposed through misguided medical attempts to manage difficult pregnancies in the 1950s, '60s and '70s.
Our Stolen Future then asks a broader, more difficult and more controversial set of questions. Given what is known from wildlife and laboratory studies, and from examples of well-studied human exposure, and given that exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals in the real world is widespread at levels comparable to those sufficient to cause animal harm, what effects should health scientists be looking for in people in general? Effects to be expected include declines in fertility and other impacts on the reproductive system of both men and women, impairments in disease resistance, and erosions in intelligence.
Our Stolen Future: Are We Threatening Our Fertility, Intelligence and Survival? A Scientific Detective Story Reviews
I first heard about this book in the film Bag It, which pulls some information from this book along with commentary from the author. I was very intrigued by the information and decided to read the book to get more information. I thought a lot of the examples of hormone disruption in animals were extremely interesting (and frightening), and could really teach us as humans what can happen to our own species if we are not careful.
For example, I found the story about soy plants and sheep to be extremely interesting, and how soy, over time, biologically evolved to produce larger and larger amounts of estrogen, which eventually caused the sheep in that particular area (who consumed the soy plants to survive) to slowly die out. Females receiving too much of the estrogen developed fertility issues, while the males became disinterested in the females. I liked that there were a lot of in-depth examples and scientific research explained in the book, in a way that anyone could understand. Definitely worth the read.
The spiritual descendant of Rachel Carson's classic, Silent Spring. While the villains of Carson's book have mostly been banned (in the U.S. anyway), the underlying dynamic that most concerned Carson continues: namely, that technological development outpaces our scientific understanding of technology's effects on human health and the environment. That we are, in effect, all guinea pigs in a great un-supervised experiment.
Our Stolen Future focuses on chemicals that are not acutely toxic nor necessarily carcinogenic. Rather they are endocrine disruptors that can either mimic or block the body's hormones. As the authors point out in case study after case study, the consequences of these chemicals are both potentially enormous and remarkably hard to study. For starters, endocrine disruptors upset the traditional toxicological maxim that the "dose makes the poison." For many of these chemicals it matters more when the dose is administered rather than how much it is. A minuscule dose of a certain substance delivered at just the right moment in the biological development process can cause remarkably large problems for the organism. And the evidence indicates that our environment is literally flooded with these chemicals, with consequences that we are only perceiving dimly.
The book is another fine example of good science writing, with clear and cogent chapters addressing the tragedy of the "DES daughters" or tracing the remarkable path of a PCB molecule as it bioaccumulates its way up the food chain. There's even a hermaphroditic beluga whale. The scientific field profiled here is one that is very much in its infancy -- pre-paradigmatic, as Kuhn would say -- which makes much of what is discussed somewhat speculative. The scientific picture has become somewhat clearer in the years since publication, although a coherent policy response remains years away.
Just this year read this deeply worrisome 1995 account of the evidence that synthetic hormones are damaging the environment and hence human health. The chemicals are in some pharmaceuticals but our primary exposure to them is through chemicals added to plastic, in everything from toys and baby bottles to shower curtains, and consumer products like shampoo and detergent.
The book essentially jumpstarted concern about these synthetics, which evidence suggests can cause birth defects in wild animals and in people, and possibly make people more susceptible to things like cancer. (It's one possible explanation for the otherwise huge but unexplained rise in testicular and breast cancer in people.)
This is a well-written, thoroughly researched book, co-written by Colborn (herself a researcher) and it's both an explicit and a worthy follow-up to Silent Spring (in which Rachel Carson actually briefly mentions the risks these compounds pose).
Research into the concerns that Colborn brought into popular consciousness has continued and has only gotten scarier -- witness recent efforts to ban chemicals like Bisphenol A (used to line metal cans).
This book is scary! Science explains where cancer, autoimmune disease, allergies, Autism come from and why they are a relatively "new" problem. Certainly makes sense to me. They have a good website too!
Just as Silent Spring brought about awareness and prompted actions to protect human life, so should the information presented in this book. We should be reexamining the hormone disrupting, endocrine disrupting chemicals that are insidiously pervading our environment and are drastically affecting us all.