OUR STOLEN FUTURE
To complete the series of articles on the dangers that chemical contaminants can pose to human health and the environment, I will refer to a term that seems very strange but is nevertheless of great interest to the health of our lives and that of our grandchildren. Since the middle of the 20th century, numerous animal species, very different from each other and located in different areas of the planet, are suffering alterations in their hormonal system due to exposure to artificial chemicals, components of numerous products of daily use. These alterations include the loss of reproductive capacity, mass mortalities, deformities in reproductive organs, abnormal sexual behaviour and a decrease in the immune system of the affected species caused by various chemical substances.
These are chemicals that alter the development and normal functioning of the sexual organs. In 1952, the loss of the natural mating and breeding instinct of the Bald Eagle in Florida (USA) was documented, and it was determined that 80% of the eagles were sterile. In the late 1950s, otters virtually disappeared from the rivers of England. In the mid-1960s, female mink otters on farms near Lake Michigan (Great Lakes, USA) either did not give birth or lost their young soon after. The problem was related to the presence of PCBs in the fish they were feeding on, which came from Lake Michigan.
Remember that polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are compounds belonging to the so-called dirty dozen, already commented on in another article. In 1970, it was observed that 80% of the herring gull chicks from Lake Ontario (Great Lakes, USA) died before emerging from the egg and some of them presented deformities very similar to those observed in chickens treated with dioxins in laboratory experiments. In the early 1970s, it was documented that female Western Gulls from Southern California (USA) were paired with other females. Amphibian with malformation. In the late 1980s, it was discovered that only 18% of alligator eggs from Lake Apopka in Florida (USA) were viable and half of the young died before 10 days. Sixty percent of the males had abnormally small penises, i.e. feminized characters. Adolescent females had deformities of the ovaries and their blood oestrogen levels were twice as high as normal 10 years earlier; there had been an uncontrolled release of the insecticides dicofol and DDT from a factory into the lake. In the early 1990s, dolphins in the Mediterranean Sea suffered a mass mortality caused by a viral infection.
Dead animals were found to have concentrations of PCBs two to three times higher than healthy animals. In the 1990s in England, the feminisation of fish that lived off the discharge from municipal water treatment plants was observed. These fish showed abnormalities not found in fish living downstream. It was suspected that the cause might be related to the presence of chemicals from degradation of detergents and plastics