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

 

 

The bottom line

The central point of the Our Stolen Future is that some man-made chemicals interfere with the body's own hormones. These compounds find their way into our bodies through a variety of pathways. They build up over time, often over years.

When a woman becomes pregnant, some fraction of her contaminant burden is transferred to the fetus. When this happens they interfere with the hormonal signals directing development and thus disrupt fetal growth. Sometimes the effects are conspicuous, sometimes they are not.

Some of these chemicals alter sexual development. Some undermine intelligence and behavior. Others make our bodies less resistant to disease. Sometimes the effects don't appear until a child reaches puberty or afterward, even though the exposure took place in the womb.

These chemicals pose the greatest hazard in the earliest phases of life because hormones orchestrate development and because fetal development is exquisitely sensitive to tiny variations in hormone signals. For a fetus to grow up according to its genetic blueprint, the right hormone message has to arrive at the right place in the right amount at the right time.

The emerging science we present in Our Stolen Future is about what happens when something interferes with the delivery of that message. A signal doesn't arrive because it is blocked. One that was small becomes large. One that shouldn't have been there at all shows up nonetheless.

The first nine chapters of the book examine a chain of evidence that extends from wildlife populations to laboratory experiments to the epidemiology of exposed groups of people. There's not a lot in these sections that is controversial.

We are working from a data base of over 4,000 scientific publications. Over 100 scientists have participated directly in deliberations that have produced a series of consensus statements about the nature of the problem. Many scientists reviewed their sections of the book word-by-word to ensure that we did not misrepresent their findings. This is not fringe science.

After we examine in Our Stolen Future the basic science from wildlife, lab animals and relevant human studies we then ask a larger set of questions.

Given these findings,

  • given the the uncontested observations that endocrine contaminants are ubiquitous
  • and given that at least in some places in the world those background levels of contamination are within the ranges in which effects are seen in the laboratory and in people.
  • given all that, what signals should we look for in human populations?
We could have stopped before this. We knew that going on would be controversial. But as we thought about the implications of these basic findings and their potential ramifications, we concluded that the only responsible course was to go on and find out what science was able, and not able to say, given the current evidence.

If you have read this section, you will find it replete with all sorts of cautionary statements, with many comments to the effect that data on one issue or another are as yet inadequate to reach a judgement. In sum, however, the weight of the evidence says we have a problem. Human impacts beyond isolated cases are already demonstrable. They involve impairments to reproduction, alterations in behavior, diminishment of intellectual capacity, and erosion in the ability to resist disease. The simple truth is that the way we allow chemicals to be used in society today means we are performing a vast experiment, not in the lab, but in the real world, not just on wildlife but on people.

 
     
     

 

 

 

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