Endocrine Disruption caused by hormones and synthetic chemicals controversial as shown in Our Stolen Future a book by Theo Colborne presents a profoundly new way to examine the impacts of chemical contamination. Most of the concern about contamination has been focused on the potential for chemical contaminants to cause cancer. Our Stolen Future breaks out of this “cancer paradigm” and shows that the preoccupation with cancer has blinded society to other risks that may be much greater. Our Stolen Future also shows that protections designed to avoid cancer impacts are inadequate to protect against disruptions in hormone systems.
- The science presented in Our Stolen Future challenges the most basic assumptions behind the current regulation of chemicals. Traditional toxicology is based on the principle, ‘the dose makes the poison.’ This understanding assumes that dose and response have a linear relationship – the higher the dose the higher the effect. At low doses, it is assumed, there is a point at which no observable adverse effect is present, the no obserable adverse effect level (NOAEL). Disruption of the hormonal system can occur at doses far below the NOAEL, and there is a growing body of research that gives evidence for a non-linear, non-monotonic relationship between dose and response. This means that important parts of the whole structure of laws designed to measure the costs and the benefits of using many synthetic chemicals are invalid. Current approaches allow use unless harm has been proven with scientific certainty. Our Stolen Future presents compelling scientific evidence that this is not adequate. Before chemicals should be allowed to be used in widespread fashion, there should be firm evidence that they do no harm.
- Children and the unborn are the most at risk and current regulatory laws do little to protect them. There are two significant risks for children and the unborn: First, a fetus and a growing child are still developing the hormonal relationships that define the endocrine system. Their organ systems are acutely sensitive to hormonal signals, which guide their development to maturity. If the wrong hormonal signal arrives at a crucial moment in development—wrong because it is disrupted by contaminants–development may be forced along pathways that diminish the child’s ultimate growth potential and his or her ability to function as an adult. Adults, having already passed those crucial moments, are no longer vulnerable to the same disruptions. Second, a woman accumulates contaminants over a lifetime of exposure prior to pregnancy. During pregnancy she can transfer large quantities of contaminants to the fetus, just a the time in the life of her baby when it is most vulnerable to disrupting contamination signals.
- Our Stolen Future presents evidence that hormone disruptors are already widespread in the environment and that people are exposed to diverse combinations and levels of chemicals via many unexpected pathways. Exposure to multiple chemicals presents a new challenge to toxicological testing that currently examines one chemical at a time. The regulations, agencies and industry rules designed to protect humans and others species have been asleep at the wheel.
- Since Our Stolen Future was first published, the controversy about endocrine disruptors has centered almost exclusively on the question of human health implications and whether the theory provides a possible explanation for worrisome health trends. In the course of this debate, critics and chemical industry allies have tried to dismiss endocrine disruption hazards as “speculative” and “alarmist,” arguing scientists do not have definitive “proof” that hormonally active contaminants are causing harm in humans. These skeptics have typically ignored the extensive animal evidence that demonstrates the hazards of environmental hormones and they have discounted that animal research provides a valuable guide for predicting human effects.