Why do some children and adults get sick from these chemical contaminants and others do not? This is an important question that has to do with genes, chemical cocktails, and even possibly stress.
While I was researching my novel, I posed this question to John Peterson Myers, co-author of the pioneering and now classic, Our Stolen Future: Are We Threatening our Fertility, Intelligence, and Survival? (an excellent expose on endocrine disruption). Pete replied, “An absolutely vital point is that not all people nor all animals respond in the same way. This is one place where inherited genetics comes into play. For example, work on organophosphate pesticides shows that there can be as much as a 40-fold difference in sensitivity.” In short, our genes have a lot to do with our sensitivity to toxins, just like some people develop allergies while others don’t.
But it’s not just genes. A big factor is that while clinical studies are done with one chemical at a time, we are exposed to great chemical cocktails that can often exacerbate the effects and overwhelm our immune systems.
And even stress can have something to do with it. When tadpoles smell a newt—their traditional predator and a significant source of stress in the tadpole world—they were fifty times more likely to die than tadpoles swimming in uncontaminated water.
There is a silver lining I discovered in all the disturbing research I read. So many of these diseases that plague our children and ourselves are actually being caused by man-made chemicals. What this means is that they are not inevitable. They are in fact environmental illnesses that are preventable. Today’s epidemics include hormone-related cancers such as breast and prostate cancer, autoimmune disorders, learning disabilities, autism, degenerative diseases, preterm birth, obesity and diabetes, asthma, and infertility. As we stop putting these endocrine disrupting chemicals and other toxins into our environment, we will be able to save millions of children—and adults—untold amounts of suffering.
Tomorrow, we’ll explore how to live in a toxic world and some of the things that you can do to minimize the chances of your and everyone’s children getting sick.