Our Stolen Futurea book by Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski, and John Peterson Myers


  Schettler, T, G Solomon, M Valenti and A Huddle. 1999. Generations at Risk: Reproductive Health and the Environment. MIT Press.

This important book brings scientific information about the reproductive effects of environmental contaminants to the public "in a readable form while also serving as a resource to the medical, public health and activist communities, policymakers and industry."


From Chapter 11: Reflections and Recommendations.

"Exposures to toxic chemicals without the informed consent of those exposed emerges as a dominant theme throught this book. Sometimes evidence of exposures or toxicity is disregarded, concealed, or not communicated to those who bear risks. In other cases, the risks are unknown or unstudied, but exposures continue. Many factors conspire to maintain a system that fails to incorporate basic principles of public health practice or to acknowledge fundamental human rights: a fragmented and reactive approach to problem solving, the perception of science as completely objective, an uninformed public, an economic system that encourages rapid development and marketing of new chemical products, and the curious notion that corporations have the right to expose people to untested chemicals."


Press coverage

The book contains four main sections:

  • introductory information about reproductive physiology and toxicology. This is an excellent, in-depth yet accessible overview that establishes the scientific basis for understanding subsequent sections.
  • reviews of the reproductivity toxicity of metals, solvents and pesticides. As Schettler et al. note, it's not possible to review the toxicology of all compounds to which people are exposed (because there are tens of thousands and for most of them, relevant studies have not been done). But they do an excellent job covering many of the best known.
  • a guide to the regulatory system... its history, structure and weaknesses. This is a solid, comprehensive overview that highlights how fragmented current policies are and thus how inadequate the protections they offer.
  • practical guides for (i) people at home and (ii) health care workers who are concerned about potential exposures at work, at home or in their community.

All of this book is useful, as a reference for specific toxicological issues, as a primer on the regulatory process, and as a concise overview of the basics of reproductive physiology and toxicology.

Parts of the book are particularly incisive and instructive:

... on sound science (page 310):

"The voices of industry have been among the loudest promoting the idea that science can and must be practiced totally independent of political and economic interests. They have argued that policy decisions must be based on sound science rather than emotion or ideology. What they have in mind is a particular interpretation of science focusing on understanding molecular mechanisms, specific definitions of proof and causation, and narrow definitions of adverse effects. They imply that cautionary health-protective actions, taken without proof of causation and harm, are not scientifically sound and unjustified. ... Even today, the lack of proof of harm, where proof is defined with full scientific rigor, continues to be used as an excuse for manufacturing and marketing harmful products. Used in this way, science, promoted as the impartial mediator, contributres to a failure to protect public and environmental health. [With this section Schettler et al. anticipate comments by The Royal Society's June 2000 report on endocrine disrupting chemicals.]






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