Dear Friends,To those who think that they are not affected by environmental pollution often brush aside our claims as 'phantom claims of jollawallas'. In the early 90's an IB guy from Jamshedpur visited me at our office in Chaibase. He wanted to know why we are opposing uranium mining in Singhbhum. After explaining to him in great detail about radioactive pollution he remained unconvinced and was unable to comprehend what I was telling him . I than told him about one of our recent findings which we were not at that time ready go public about as publicity of it would affect the social image of the people living in and around the Jadugora mines.
I told him that we had found out that males after reaching normal puberty were experiencing sex changes. Shrinking of their penises and slight enlargement of their breast. He still did not care to understand. I then told him that these deformities need not be contained within Adivasi communities but all those coming within the radius of radioactive pollution from Jadugora which included Jamshedpur. He jumped up and looked at me for a second and got very restless after that. Nervous he said on leaving "I am going to write this in my report"
That attention you get not only when you get hit below the belt but also when it threatens your own blood.
Five years ago a study in Britain showed that the burning of plastics releases chemicals in the air that reduces the sperm count in men. Not much attention was given to it but surveys show that the sperm count in men in Britain is falling.
Below is an article published in the New York Times. I hope reading it will help our environment skeptics to realise that 'they and their families are as much within the danger line as the millions in India suffering from chemical pollution. I hate to say it but for some we have got to hit below the belt in order that it registers in their minds. Climate change may seem remote. Sex change will not.
It's Time to Learn From Frogs
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
Published: June 27, 2009
Some of the first eerie signs of a potential health catastrophe came as bizarre deformities in water animals, often in their sexual organs.
Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times
Nicholas D. Kristof
Frogs, salamanders and other amphibians began to sprout extra legs. In heavily polluted Lake Apopka, one of the largest lakes in Florida, male alligators developed stunted genitals.
In the Potomac watershed near Washington, male smallmouth bass have rapidly transformed into "intersex fish" that display female characteristics. This was discovered only in 2003, but the latest survey found that more than 80 percent of the male smallmouth bass in the Potomac are producing eggs.
Now scientists are connecting the dots with evidence of increasing abnormalities among humans, particularly large increases in numbers of genital deformities among newborn boys. For example, up to 7 percent of boys are now born with undescended testicles, although this often self-corrects over time. And up to 1 percent of boys in the United States are now born with hypospadias, in which the urethra exits the penis improperly, such as at the base rather than the tip.
Apprehension is growing among many scientists that the cause of all this may be a class of chemicals called endocrine disruptors. They are very widely used in agriculture, industry and consumer products. Some also enter the water supply when estrogens in human urine — compounded when a woman is on the pill — pass through sewage systems and then through water treatment plants.
These endocrine disruptors have complex effects on the human body, particularly during fetal development of males.
"A lot of these compounds act as weak estrogen, so that's why developing males — whether smallmouth bass or humans — tend to be more sensitive," said Robert Lawrence, a professor of environmental health sciences at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "It's scary, very scary."
The scientific case is still far from proven, as chemical companies emphasize, and the uncertainties for humans are vast. But there is accumulating evidence that male sperm count is dropping and that genital abnormalities in newborn boys are increasing. Some studies show correlations between these abnormalities and mothers who have greater exposure to these chemicals during pregnancy, through everything from hair spray to the water they drink.
Endocrine disruptors also affect females. It is now well established that DES, a synthetic estrogen given to many pregnant women from the 1930s to the 1970s to prevent miscarriages, caused abnormalities in the children. They seemed fine at birth, but girls born to those women have been more likely to develop misshaped sexual organs and cancer.
There is also some evidence from both humans and monkeys that endometriosis, a gynecological disorder, is linked to exposure to endocrine disruptors. Researchers also suspect that the disruptors can cause early puberty in girls.
A rush of new research has also tied endocrine disruptors to obesity, insulin resistance and diabetes, in both animals and humans. For example, mice exposed in utero even to low doses of endocrine disruptors appear normal at first but develop excess abdominal body fat as adults.
Among some scientists, there is real apprehension at the new findings — nothing is more terrifying than reading The Journal of Pediatric Urology — but there hasn't been much public notice or government action.
This month, the Endocrine Society, an organization of scientists specializing in this field, issued a landmark 50-page statement. It should be a wake-up call.
"We present the evidence that endocrine disruptors have effects on male and female reproduction, breast development and cancer, prostate cancer, neuroendocrinology, thyroid, metabolism and obesity, and cardiovascular endocrinology," the society declared.
"The rise in the incidence in obesity," it added, "matches the rise in the use and distribution of industrial chemicals that may be playing a role in generation of obesity."
The Environmental Protection Agency is moving toward screening endocrine disrupting chemicals, but at a glacial pace. For now, these chemicals continue to be widely used in agricultural pesticides and industrial compounds. Everybody is exposed.
"We should be concerned," said Dr. Ted Schettler of the Science and Environmental Health Network. "This can influence brain development, sperm counts or susceptibility to cancer, even where the animal at birth seems perfectly normal."
The most notorious example of water pollution occurred in 1969, when the Cuyahoga River in Ohio caught fire and helped shock America into adopting the Clean Water Act. Since then, complacency has taken hold.
Those deformed frogs and intersex fish — not to mention the growing number of deformities in newborn boys — should jolt us once again.
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