Mama Gone Green is a blog dedicated to raising happy children and reducing our impact on the Earth. My name is Taryn and I am the mother of 2 young kids and an environmental studies instructor at a community college in Portland, Oregon. Please join me as I journey through life as a mama, teacher, knitter, photographer, gardener, and environmentalist!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Our Stolen Future: A Review

Our Stolen Future by Theo Colburn, Diane Dumanoski and John Peterson is an amazing and amazingly depressing book. First published in 1996, it is a bit outdated, but it is an extremely important piece of work.
The book discuss, in detail, the connections between made-made hormones (from pesticides, medicines, plastics, and more) and human health issues, specifically fertility. At the time this book was written, this was cutting-edge science, and was essentially a more modern version of A Silent Spring. And maybe even a scarier version. But yet this book doesn't seem to have made a dent in the way we think about chemicals. In fact, our public library (which is awesome, mind you) didn't even have a copy of this book. There was one lone copy at the community college library that I teach. The work of Theo Colborn (one of the authors) has been featured in several films that discuss connections between the environment and human health... but this stuff should have been front page of every newspaper.
Our Stolen Future traces the connections between synthesized chemicals in our environment, declines in populations of wild animals, and health and fertility issues in humans. It shows how certain types of chemicals get stored in fat cells of organisms that ingest them. The organism who ingests them may not show any ill effects, and so when safety tests on these chemicals are run, they seem safe and are given a green light. It is years later, however, that these chemicals can start to take their toll. The chemical burden of a mother can interfere with the development of her babies.... causing things like lowered sperm counts in male offspring, higher chance of certain cancers in babies, and incorrectly developed sex organs.
We are seeing similar patterns in wild animals, and often to higher degrees. Populations that are already threatened by habitat loss or overfishing and are now being exposed to our chemical poisons are having trouble producing future generations. Lab studies have shown numerous chemicals, that are now ubiquitous, that are shown to greatly reduce fertility in animals. Humans take longer to show these effects because we wait longer to reproduce, but they are showing up. Male sperm counts have been on a rapid decrease over time, miscarriages are on the rise, as are other developmental problem such as ADD, autism, and learning disorders.
In essence, we are messing up the human population. The chemical burden that we are putting into our environment (and therefore into ourselves and our offspring) is starting to take it's toll. It may not be an easy correlation to see..... if we ingest trace small amounts of pesticides on our food, it is unlikely that we would suddenly get extremely sick. And we ourselves may never get sick at all. But our children may. They may suffer learning problems, cancers or infertility. But because these problems result so many years later, and because we are all exposed to so many chemicals, it is hard to tease out which chemicals are doing what.
This is a captivating read, and I made it through the 250 pages in just a few short days. Depressing, yes, but also inspiring. A must read for anyone interested in the connections between chemicals and human health.

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