Vol. 8, No. 4, 2002 Page 6


By Theo Colborn, Dianne
Dumanoski and John Myers
$11.16 (Internet Paper Edition)

This book may explain, at least in part, why so many of today's children appear to lack the ability to think and act logically.

The authors begin by telling the fascinating story of how cancer, sexual preference and sexual malfunction can be affected by certain chemicals. They then detail how our intelligence and survival are threatened by a potential environmental catastrophe: some plastics and pesticides, and many other chemicals, have been shown to disrupt the biochemistry of animals—including humans. This disruption disturbs the body's hormonal system, and thus can affect the development and function of the brain.

Research is ongoing, but there is a problem in obtaining absolute proof in humans. (How can you research the human brain with a double- blind study that gives one group a known toxin?) Animal research, however, shows that brain damage caused by hormone-disrupting chemicals can result in serious learning and behavioral problems.

This is not surprising, because very little needs to malfunction in the brain to cause inability to foresee the consequence of actions, lack of empathy, poor logic, and increased aggressiveness—all problems linked to crime and violence.

Are America's children becoming less logical as a result of hormone- disrupting chemicals in their environment? Read this important book, before you make up your mind.


by Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski, and John Peterson Myers

Before doctors in Europe and Australia linked thalidomide to an alarming increase in bizarrely deformed babies, thousands of pregnant women had taken the drug as a tranquilizer or as a treatment for nausea. By the time it was finally removed from the market and medicine cabinets, it had caused severe deformities in eight thousand children in forty-six countries. The placenta had proved no barrier to the drug at all. The tragic episode also drove home the lesson that substances and doses tolerated readily by adults can devastate the unborn.


Around the world, one hundred thousand synthetic chemicals are now on the market. Each year one thousand new substances are introduced, most of them without adequate testing and review. At best, existing testing facilities worldwide can test only five hundred substances a year. In reality, only a fraction of this number actually do get tested.


(S)cientists are now finding evidence that hormone-disrupting chemicals can act together and that small, seemingly insignificant quantities of individual chemicals can have a major cumulative effect.


Long before concentrations of synthetic chemicals reach sufficient levels to cause obvious physical illness or abnormalities, they can impair learning ability and cause dramatic, permanent changes in behavior, such as hyperactivity. Save for a few compounds such as PCBs, we know virtually nothing about the hazards posed to thinking and behavior by the thousands of synthetic chemicals in commerce.


The brain and nervous system, like other parts of the body, pass through critical periods during their development both in the womb and in the first two years of life. When thyroid levels are too high or too low, this development process will go awry and permanent damage will result, which can range from mental retardation to more subtle behavioral disorders and learning disabilities.


Scientists keep finding significant, often permanent effects at surprisingly low doses. The danger we face is not simply death and disease. By disrupting hormones and development, these synthetic chemicals may be changing who we become. They may be altering our destinies.


We worry about the power of hormone-disrupting chemicals to undermine and alter the characteristics that make us uniquely human— our behavior, intelligence, and capacity for social organization. The scientific evidence about the impact of hormone disruptors on brain development and behavior may shed new light on some of the troubling trends we are witnessing.


Chemicals that disrupt hormone messages have the power to rob us of rich possibilities that have been the legacy of our species and, indeed, the essence of our humanity. There may be fates worse than extinction.

Related Article: [2002, Vol. 8]

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