This is one of the blogs I follow to break down my echo-chamber. I have some disagreement with most of what is posted in the blog, but occasionally, he comes up with stuff like this that is very on target….
Summary: We are in the midst of a great experiment. We live in a soup of biologically active chemicals. Some are released by industrial processes. Some are medicines we piss away. Some are chemicals we feed farm stock. We know they having strange effects on animals. Only time will tell their effect on us. Scientists are doing only small-scale research on this because we have more interesting things to worry about.
America obsesses over threats whose solutions provide big benefits for powerful groups (e.g., climate change and foreign terrorists). Threats whose solutions provide no such benefits get little attention, no matter how scary and potentially damaging.
There is a another aspect to this. We tend to identify threats by looking backwards. New threats seldom get attention. Worse are those threats on the limits of what we can see. Roman society was damaged by low-level lead poisoning, something they lacked the ability to sense or understand.
The release in America’s waters of biologically–active chemicals – especially chemicals similar to hormones – is such a threat. They are in our water and food. Evidence slowly accumulates of their effects on people but as yet without strong conclusions. They might be contributing to men’s falling sperm counts. And to other ill effects, some of which cannot even imagine today. The public has emerged onto the public stage with articles like GQ’s “Sperm Count Zero” and Toxic Cocktail: How Chemical Pollution Is Poisoning Our Brains by Barbara Demeneix (2017).
Let’s look at what scientists know, starting with this by Jeremy Krogh et al. in Frontiers in Marine Science, 18 December 2017.
“The presence of detectable concentrations of pharmaceuticals and synthetic personal care products (PPCPs) within natural waters has been known for some time now. …Because sewage contains a complex mixture of contaminants it is difficult to separate the ecological impacts of PPCPs from the many other toxic substances present in sewage. None-the-less, pharmaceuticals are unique among environmental contaminants as they are purposefully engineered to have impacts on patients (human and animal) at very low concentrations. The sub-lethal effects of these compounds individually or as a mixture are difficult to assess.”
By Mitch Leslie in Science, 30 August 2017.
“For more than 20 years, researchers have fretted about the effects of endocrine disruptors, molecules that meddle with the body’s hormones. Crocodilians – the group that includes crocs and alligators – have furnished some of the most dramatic examples. In the 1990s, for instance, scientists reported that male alligators from Florida’s Lake Apopka, which was fouled by a brew of hormone-mimicking chemicals, had shrunken genitalia and reduced testosterone levels.
“Like many endocrine disruptors, those chemicals triggered the same effects as estrogens, or female sex hormones. Researchers have uncovered only a few cases of the opposite problem, masculinization caused by male hormones, or androgens. Molecular biologist Elizabeth Wilson of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill says that whereas “there are lots and lots of compounds that will activate the estrogen receptor,” the cellular receptors that respond to androgens are choosy.
“Of the few known environmental androgens, trenbolone acetate, a synthetic steroid implanted into cattle to speed their growth, has sparked the most concern. Studies found that a derivative excreted by juiced cattle reduces minnows’ fertility, transforms female zebrafish into males, and induces other masculinizing effects.”
This is America.