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Very Small Levels of Chemical Exposures Can be Dangerous

For years the public has been told that a low level of chemical exposure holds no significant risk to humans: The results of recent studies, however; show that even small amounts of chemicals (in drinking water, in foods) may ht fact be very damaging.

One of the most important areas of research is the field of endocrine disrupters. New research in this area has shown that chemicals like dioxin, PCBs, and DDT act at very low levels to interfere with normal hormone functions of the body. Very low levels of these chemicals have been linked to a wide variety of health problems suet as neurological and developmental problems, immune system disruption, learning disabilities, birth defects, and other reproductive anomalies.

The truth is that scientists know very little about how the body responds to small amounts of numerous chemicals. In the recent endocrine studies, health effects are being reported at levels of exposure not anticipated by our current understanding of how chemicals operate in the human body. The implication is that the standard methods for assessing chemical risks may not work for many low-level chemical exposures.

One proponent of the new thinking about how chemicals impact the human body is Dr. Pete Myers, one of the co-authors of Our Stolen Future. This book explores the threat contamination poses to foetal development, and the potentially wide-ranging impacts of chemicals on human potential. According to Myers, chemical attacks against foetal development work because some chemicals act as impostors, insinuating themselves in the body's natural hormone system that normally directs foetal development. These natural hormone signals work at very low concentrations. When traditional methods for measuring toxic effects and assessing risks are relied on solely, the impacts of low levels of chemicals that disrupt hormone signals will not be understood. As a result, risk factors for these low-level chemical exposures will be underestimated and established improperly.

Frances Cerra Whittelsey reports that seven out of ten green tea samples tested from New York store shelves showed DDT or Dursban contamination. Both are cancer-causing chemicals banned by the EPA in food products for the United States. Dangerous pesticides are still being used in countries all over the world and U.S. consumers have no assurance that green tea is free of pesticide contamination.

What is becoming apparent is that important low-level effects, such as disruption of a hormone signalling system, may be hidden by higher levels of chemical exposure, which cause more obvious impacts that are easier to measure. The full impact of low-level exposure may not be visible for years, perhaps decades, until the infant has grown into an adult. This time lag means that evidence linking cause and effect may no longer be available when the effect becomes apparent. In fact, the timing of the exposure may be more important than the amount. Exposure at a certain step of foetal development may have a dramatic effect, while the same exposure perhaps only a day or two later may have no effect or very little effect. Lastly, hormone disrupters occur at complex mixtures in the human body. Each of us has several hundred synthetic chemicals in our blood. Every baby born throughout the world has been exposed in the womb to complex mixtures. Exactly how these chemicals will act together to interfere with normal biological functions over tiffle is fee question we have yet to answer.

There was an update from Frances Whittelsey but I am out of room.

Even though the next issue is already done and enclosed with this one, may I still say:

Until next time, as always, may you walk in Health and Light.

Richard Cameron

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