“As the tide of chemicals born of the Industrial Age has arisen to engulf our environment, a drastic change has come about in the nature of the most serious public health problems. For the first time in the history of the world, every human being is subject to contact with dangerous chemicals, from the moment of conception until death.” (Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, 1962). Two years after writing these words, Rachel Carson died of breast cancer. Thirty-two years later, global pollution is still rising. This report provides evidence that breast cancer in females, testicular cancer, genital abnormalities, and reduced sperm counts in males is directly connected to the rise of chemical pollution on earth.
In 1961, one in 20 women got breast cancer. In 1994, one in eight got it. In 2000, it was one in five. The skyrocketing breast cancer rate is paralleled by rapid increases in a number of other cancers, including cancer of the testes, prostate, kidney, skin and lung, malignant myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and numerous childhood cancers (Greenpeace, 1993). There are increasing numbers of men being born with reproductive defects, including undersized genitalia, low testosterone and reduced sperm counts.
Breast Cancer Statistics 2009
Breast cancer incidence in women in the United States is still 1 in 8 (about 13%). For women in the U.S., breast cancer death rates are higher than those for any other cancer besides lung cancer. Besides skin cancer, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among U.S. women. More than 1 in 4 cancers are breast cancer.
Compared to African American women, white women are slightly more likely to develop breast cancer, but less likely to die of it. One possible reason is that African American women tend to have more aggressive tumors, although why this is the case is not known. Women of other ethnic backgrounds — Asian, Hispanic, and Native American — have a lower risk of developing and dying from breast cancer than white women and African American women.
From 2001 to 2004, breast cancer incidence rates in the U.S. decreased by 3.5% per year. One theory is that this decrease was due to the reduced use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) by women after the results of a large study, called the Women’s Health Initiative, were published in 2002. These results suggested a connection between HRT and increased breast cancer risk.
Estrogen Mimics: Xenoestrogens
Estrogen is a carcinogen unless opposed by progesterone. This is not new information. By 1947, there were over 200 scientific papers documenting the carcinogen city of estrogen. Chemicals that mimic estrogen are called xenoestrogens. (Xeno is a Greek prefix meaning ‘foreign’). Many contain chlorine or fluorine and do not structurally resemble estrogen in any way. Some are synthetic estrogens and yet others are aromatic hydrocarbons. How does a chemical mimic estrogen? To understand this you should know that cells responsive to estrogen have receptors for this hormone on their surface. Estrogen is like a key that fits into the cell receptor (lock). When estrogen binds to its receptor, this unlocks the door to biochemical pathways inside the cell, such as cell proliferation.
Xenoestrogens can also bind to the cell receptor and unlock estrogen-receptor activity. For example, DES (diethylstilbestrol) unlocks estrogen-receptor activity even more efficiently than the body’s natural estrogen. DES’ carcinogenicity is well known. More recently, researchers have been compiling a long and growing list of xenoestrogens that do not have any structural resemblance to the estrogen molecule. Contrary to popular belief, both men and women produce estrogen and both have receptors for the hormone.
Organochlorine pesticides (insecticides), such as DDT, endosulfan, kepone, and heptachlor and the herbicide atrazine. Organochlorines reached large-scale production during World War II. Organochlorines tend to resist degradation and to accumulate in fatty tissues. Thus they can be found anywhere on earth, in animals and in humans. Over 177 different organochlorines have been detected in human fat cells, blood, breast milk, semen and even breath (Greenpeace, July-Sept. 1993).
Certain petroleum byproducts such as PCB’s (polychlorinated biphenyls), widely used in the electronics industry, PVC (polyvinyl chloride), a very common plastic (vinyl) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH’s).
Dioxin, an unintended byproduct from paper bleaching, the manufacture of certain synthetic chemicals including herbicides and the incineration of chlorine-containing waste.
Synthetic estrogens such as DES (diethylstilbestrol). Certain combustion products, such as dihydroxybenz (alpha) anthracene from the incineration of trash.
These are natural substances in certain plants (phyto-) that have estrogenic activity. Some of these include yeast, and certain herbs such as black cohosh, sage, and pennyroyal and the isoflavones in soy. These phytoestrogens have weak estrogenic activity even though they have the same structure as natural estrogen. Why? Because, they are embedded in the mother plant and therefore, must be digested, absorbed and assimilated before they have an effect on the body. Not so with xenoestrogens. There is a big difference between digesting a plant containing phytoestrogens and ingesting a synthetic estrogen mimic.
John McLachlan has been doing research on estrogenic chemicals at the National Institute of Environmental Research, Triangle Park, N.C. since 1973. McLachlan believes that plant estrogens may be protective. Says McLachlan, “plant estrogens in the diet may be good for you.”’ Why? They may tie up receptors otherwise available to the more potent estrogenic substances (Raloff). I do not agree with this. Many researchers have shown that any type of estrogen, synthetic, natural of plant-derived is carcinogenic.
So Why Are We Using Yet More Pesticides?
Even in the face of mounting evidence linking pesticides to cancer, U.S. pesticide use is on the rise. In 1993, the U.S. used an estimated 2.23 billion pounds, up from 2.15 billion pounds in 1990, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) June 1994 report, “Pesticide Industry Sales and Usage: 1992 and 1993 Market Estimates.” In 1993, pesticides were used on more than 900,000 farms and in 69 million households in the U.S. at a total cost of $8.5 billion (McCarthy, J. Pesticide Reform).
For example, endosulfan chemically related to DDT and with comparable estrogenic properties, is used on many common foods such as grapes, lettuce and tomatoes. In 1991, farmers used two million pounds of endosulfan on 45 different fruit and vegetable crops (reported in the October 24, 1993 The New York Times).
More pesticides have been registered during 1993 than in any year since 1975 (Safe Food News, Fall 1994).
Fast forward to 2009. Things have not gotten better. Here are some headlines on the continued use of pesticides and the increased need for them due to genetically engineered crops. Plus some good news on the growth of organic farming.
The Bad News
According to a USDA report, between 1964 and 1982, pesticide use in the U.S. jumped by a factor of almost three, peaking at nearly 600 million pounds annually. The USDA is shockingly casual about releasing current pesticide statistics. The freshest data I can find show pesticide use hovering at 500 million pounds in 2002 -- more than double the 1964 level.
This annual avalanche of toxins onto our crops and soils has been accompanied by mounting evidence of their ill effects on public health -- particularly that of farmers and farm workers. The latest entry: study from Canada showing that women who had worked on farms were nearly three times as likely as other women to develop breast cancer.
The Agricultural Health Study, a joint venture of several public-health agencies, has revealed direct links between chemical-intensive farming and both prostate cancer and retinal degeneration.
Farm worker health has quietly become a kind of human sacrifice at the altar of cheap food. Consumers in the U.S. benefit from -- and low-income people rely on -- the world's cheapest food system. They owe it to farm workers to demand an end to, or at least a severe reduction in, pesticide use. Consumer hell-raising helped ban DDT and other persistent pesticides in the 1970s.
Lawsuit Challenges EPA on Four Deadly Pesticides
Source: Earthjustice, April 7, 2008
EPA has long recognized that these four organophosphates -- methidathion, oxydemeton-methyl, methamidophos, and ethoprop -- can poison farmworkers. However, in 2002 and 2006, EPA decided that agri-business could continue selling and using these poisons without considering the risks posed to rural children and families when the pesticides drift into schoolyards, outdoor play areas, and homes. "EPA knows that children in rural communities are exposed to these poisons, yet EPA has not even attempted to assess the risks resulting from such exposures," said Shelley Davis, an attorney for Farmworker Justice. "By ignoring the risks that pesticides pose to our children, EPA has failed us all."
The lawsuit was brought by Earthjustice and Farmworker Justice on behalf of Pesticide Action Network North America, United Farm Workers, Teamsters Local 890 in California, Sea Mar Community Health Centers, Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste, Beyond Pesticides, Natural Resources Defense Council, Farm Labor Organizing Committee. California Rural Legal Assistance is also participating in the case on behalf of Moises Lopez, an individual farmworker in California.
Go to the above link for a description of the toxicity of these 4 pesticides.
GM crops increase pesticides
A new report released on February 13th shows that planting genetically modified (GM) crops is causing an increased use of harmful pesticides in major biotech crop producing countries.
The 2008 edition of the Friends of the Earth International “Who Benefits from GM crops?” report series is titled “The Rise in Pesticide Use” and concludes that GM crops on the market today have on the whole caused an increase rather than a decrease in toxic pesticides use, and have failed to tackle hunger and poverty. (2)
After more than a decade of GM crop cultivation, more than 70% of the area cultivated with biotech crops is still concentrated in only two countries: the US and Argentina. To date, GM crops have done nothing to alleviate hunger or poverty in Africa or elsewhere.
“The biotech industry is telling Africans that we need GM crops to tackle the food needs of our population. But how can we believe such statements when the majority of GM crops are used to feed the animals of rich countries, produce industrial products like agrofuels, and overall don’t yield more than conventional crops?”, said Nnimmo Bassey of Friends of the Earth Nigeria/ERA.
“GM crops still fail to deliver the long-promised benefits. They are not good for the environment, as they are increasing pesticide use. In addition, they do not benefit small farmers or consumers in terms of quality or price,” added Bassey.
For the conclusions of this report, go to the link above.
Potentially Harmful Pesticides Found In All Human Subjects Tested
From ScienceDaily (Jan. 6, 2008)
A study carried out by researchers from the Department of Radiology and Physical Medicine of the University of Granada, in collaboration with the Escuela Andaluza de Salud Pública, found that 100% of Spaniards analyzed had at least one kind of persistent organic compound (POC´s), substances internationally classified as potentially harmful to one’s health, in their bodies. These substances enter the body through food, water or even air. All of them tend to accumulate in human adipose tissue and easily enter into the organism through the aforementioned mediums.
The Good News
Industry Statistics and Projected Growth
Source: Organic Trade Association http://www.ota.com/organic/mt/business.html?printable=1
The organic industry continues to grow worldwide. Here are some statistics regarding this burgeoning market. Global demand for organic products continues to grow, with sales increasing by over $5 billion a year, according to The World of Organic Agriculture: Statistics & Emerging Trends 2008. It cited Organic Monitor estimates that international sales reached $38.6 billion dollars in 2006, double that in 2000. The most important import
For a list of the most current statistic please go to the link above
The Pesticide-Cancer Connection
There is so much evidence to link breast cancer and other illnesses to pesticides and other chemicals mimicking estrogen, that I wonder why the government is proposing more costly studies to show this correlation. Here are a few examples from the growing mound of information that xenoestrogens interfere with the endocrine systems of fish, birds, wildlife and humans.
Mary S. Wolff, a chemist at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York has studied the parallel rise in breast cancer with the increased use of DDT. She says that although the EPA banned the use of DDT in the U.S. in 1972, it is used in many other countries including Mexico. Before 1972, DDT was common in meat and dairy products. Because it is stored in the fat cells of the body for decades, most Americans still carry residues. DDT and its chemical relatives continue to cause health problems. Wolff et al., has shown a correlation between blood levels of DDE, a breakdown product of DDT, and breast cancer. Women with the highest amount of DDE were four times more likely to get breast cancer than women with smaller amounts (The Associated Press, Townsend Newsletter for Doctors; Wolff, M.S.).
Ana Soto, an associate professor at the Tufts University School of Medicine, reported that endosulfan, an organochlorine insecticide currently used in the U.S., has estrogenic properties comparable to those of DDT. Soto conducted tests with human breast cancer cells and found that estrogenic pesticides accelerated the reproduction of breast cells (McCarthy, 1993). Endosulfan was found to be the seventh most commonly detected pesticide residue in food samples taken by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration between 1986 and 1991. Endosulfan was also detected in groundwater in California, Maine, and Virginia.
Devra Lee Davis, a toxicologist with the Department of Health and Human Services and researchers at five U.S. medical centers found compelling evidence that many ubiquitous pollutants have estrogenic properties. This research was published in Environmental Health Perspectives in August 1993 (Raloff).
On Wednesday, November 12, 1992, Greenpeace released a study linking the increase in breast cancer worldwide to certain synthetic chemicals. Among their findings were the following:
The increase in breast cancer parallels the increased use of synthetic chemicals.
Industrialized nations with more severe pollution have higher breast cancer rates than non-industrialized nations. Women who live near chemical waste sites are six times more likely to develop breast cancer than women living where no sites exist.
The correlation of animal fat intake with cancer may be only an indicator that chemicals persist in animal fat.
Here are some stories printed in a March 21, 1994, Newsweek Magazine article entitled, “The Estrogen Complex.”
- Male alligators from Florida’s Lake Apopka were found to have penises only one quarter the normal size. Their testosterone level was so low they were probably sterile. Why? Do you think it’s only a coincidence that thousands of gallons of a DDT-containing pesticide were dumped into Lake Apopka in 1980? “I think we have a problem here,” said Louis Guillette, a University of Florida researcher to a congressional panel. “Every man in this room is half the man his grandfather was.”
Since 1983, sperm counts of men in the United States and 20 other countries have decreased by an average of 50%, according to Danish endocrinologist Niels Skakkebaek in 1991. No one knows if there is a safe threshold for estrogen mimics. I don’t have my hopes up and I think it would be more prudent to eliminate the mimics than wait another 50 years to study threshold doses.
In Michigan, PCB’s accidentally (I hope) got into the cattle feed in 1973 and from there into the beef. Women who ate the contaminated meat, developed high levels of PCB’s in their breast milk. Their sons had testicular malformations and undersized penises. As a corollary, 118 boys in Taiwan who were born to women exposed to a PCB spill in 1979 had reproductive defects like those of the Michigan boys.
Studies link estrogenic pollutants not only to breast cancer but also to endometriosis. Seventy years ago there were only 21 reported cases in the world. Today there are five million cases in the U.S. alone. A new German study reported that women with endometriosis were more likely than others to have high levels of PCB’s in their blood. Hypothyroidism, which leads to estrogen dominance, is also causally associated with endometriosis. Because many chemicals have been found to suppress the thyroid gland, including dioxin and other organochlorines, his observation may not be far-fetched.
In New York’s Long Island there are high rates of breast cancer. The National Cancer Institute will begin a study assessing these women’s exposure to estrogenic chemicals once used on the potato fields and still in the aquifers where suburbs now have grown. In the Great Lakes, where PCB and DDT concentrations are very high in the fish, the tern and gulls who eat them are becoming ‘biochemical hermaphrodite’: the males have reproductive parts of both sexes.
Florida panthers, eating high on a food chain contaminated with estrogenic chemicals have reproductive problems. These include infertile females, sterile males, low sperm counts and high estrogen levels. One male panther was found to have estrogen levels higher than most females, says toxicologist Charles Facemire of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Pesticide-Magnetic Field Connection
Any damaged or aging tissue can produce estrogen. Magnetic fields (electromagnetic radiation) can boost the concentration of estrogens circulating in the blood (Raloff). Magnetic fields, even those of extra low or very low frequency (Elf’s, VLF’s) emanate from all electronic devices including TV’s, computer display terminals, clocks, radios, and all battery-operated devices, including toothbrushes and toys.
Estrogen stimulates cell proliferation. There is an enzyme called ODC (ornithine decarboxylase), which is essential for growth in all cells. ODC participates in the synthesis of DNA protein. Carcinogens increase ODC activity, although not all substances that increase ODC activity are cancer promoters. Nevertheless, in clinical studies of cancer cells, high levels of ODC are a reliable index of malignancy. In 1985, Ross Adey, Craig Byus and their colleagues discovered that low-level pulsed, microwave radiation similar to radar surveillance systems increased ODC activity up to 50% in cultured human and animal cancer cells. Humans living in the Cape Cod area surrounding a radar surveillance system called PAVE PAWS developed cancer at 17 times the normal rate following the installation of the PAVE PAWS radar system. Adey and Byus also found that when ELF-modulated radiation was combined with a carcinogenic chemical, the joint effect on ODC activity was double that of either alone.
The Pesticide-Spray Connection
Guess what folks? There are many places that are sprayed with pesticides that you probably don’t know about. Many restaurants, buses, and airplanes are routinely sprayed with pesticides.
Some countries require the spraying of pesticides in occupied passenger cabins while in flight or prior to allowing passengers to deplane in those countries. According to the New York Times, 25 countries require onboard spraying of arriving flights from the U.S. These include: American Samoa, Argentina, Antigua, Barbados, Belize, Cape Verde, Chile, Congo, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Grenada, India, Kenya, Jamaica, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mexico, Mozambique, New Caledonia, Nicaragua, Seychelles, St. Lucia, Trinidad, Tobago and Yemen. Austria, New Zealand and Panama may require spraying but will leave it up to the airline whether to spray the plane while empty or when the passengers are on board. In addition to this spraying, the U.S. itself sprays returning military aircraft and its passengers. Unoccupied cabins of U.S.-based airliners are routinely fogged with pesticides prior to flights, and cargo holds are painted with pesticides. Thus, airline workers, passengers and their luggage are exposed to pesticide residues, just like insects and animals.
Once poisoned, it is difficult to receive compensation for pesticide-induced illness. Former flight attendant Diana Fairechild has been on medical leave of absence from United Airlines for seven years since developing multiple chemical sensitivities from being repeatedly exposed to airline sprays during flights to Australia and New Zealand. Ms. Fairechild has seizures, internal bleeding, rashes, fevers and other symptoms. A decision on her litigation has been delayed for many years. Julia Kendall of San Rafael, California, continues to pursue legal recourse against American Airlines for leukemia that she believes was caused by pesticide exposure on a flight to a Caribbean island in 1992 (Riley).
I have a client who was a bus driver and did not know that his bus was routinely sprayed with pesticides. He gradually developed environmental illness with its multiple chemical sensitivities and allergies. He has been unable to work for the last 15 years. Since pesticides and other chemicals suppress (and sometimes destroy) thyroid function, he has many symptoms of hypothyroidism, such as chronic fatigue, dry skin, rashes, hair loss, arthritis, digestive problems, heart palpitations, nervous system, low blood sugar, and adrenal exhaustion. He had liver/gallbladder symptoms, prostate problems, pains everywhere, including chest, abdomen, rectum, muscles, and back. In addition, he had many food intolerances, including meat, dairy and wheat. I gave him enzymes for sugar intolerance (PAN), an antihistamine for rashes that includes amylase (DERM) a liver support formula (Lvr) and a lymphatic drainage remedy (Kdy). I also gave him an antioxidant formula containing bioflavanoids, zinc gluconate and burdock (Nsl), which is used to help detoxify chemical poisons and certain allergies.
Some restaurants are sprayed once a month with pesticides! I found this out inadvertently by talking to a friend who observed the restaurant kitchen where he worked being doused indiscriminately with pesticides.
Grocery Store Spraying
A housewife shopping at her local Safeway store in Leavenworth, Washington, caught the produce manager spraying Black Flag House and Garden Insect Killer on the onions and soft fruit. Outraged Washington residents filed a class-action suit against the parent corporation of Safeway, which includes as plaintiffs, patrons who purchased contaminated fruit and vegetables from the Leavenworth store between 1983 and 1993. Safeway employees testified that they were instructed to spray the produce. Meanwhile, anonymous employees from Safeway and Albertson’s told a newspaper reporter that “anybody who’s ever worked in that industry knows that’s just a common practice.” Safeway denied all the allegations in the suit, except what the employee said - that he was only spraying the wine bottles.
Are Pesticides, Herbicides Really Necessary?
I recommend that we support our local organic farmers. If we don’t buy chemical foods, no one will make them. Alternatives are available for all major uses of chlorine. There are chlorine-free substitutes for bleaching in the paper industry, for PVC construction, packaging, and cars. Many companies have discovered that substitutes for chlorinated solvents and organochlorine pesticides work AND save money (Greenpeace).
Here are some facts presented at the Seeds of Change Conference, October 21-23, 1994 by Kenny Ausubel:
The agribusiness industry is the second largest environmental polluter on earth (behind the radiation industry). Yearly, 2.1 billion chemical fertilizers and pesticides are dumped into the soils and waters of the United States. This amounts to 57 pounds per person and $17 billion profits yearly. Despite this, crop production declined by 69% between 1950 and 1979. Agricultural runoff is the single greatest source of untreated water pollution in the U.S. There are pesticides and nitrates in the groundwater of most states. Thirty-eight states have 70 different agricultural chemicals in them. Only one percent of pesticides reach their target. The rest goes into our bodies, into animals, the earth, and the water.
Over 447 kinds of pests have developed resistance to pesticides. Crop losses to bugs have doubled in the last 30 years from 7% to 13%, despite all of these pesticides. Only 0.4% of the water on earth is currently potable. Of this, the agribusiness industry uses 1/3 to 2/5. So, why do we use pesticides? Says Bill Mollison at the Seeds of Change Conference 1994, “some countries are waking up, unknown to the U.S.” He told this story as an example. In Indonesia, pesticides and herbicides are no longer used. Why? It’s a result of an experiment. Three groups of rice farmers were given equal plots of land. The first group was typical high pesticide/herbicide users. The second group used IPM (integrated pesticide management) - supposedly better than the first group. The third group was traditional farmers and used no pesticides or herbicides at all.
Guess which group won? The traditional farmers produced 47% more rice using no chemicals at all, at no increased cost, and no import bill! That’s why only organic farming is used in Indonesia. It’s more productive and much less expensive. When will the U.S. wake up?
Breast Cancer and Ionizing Radiation (X-Rays)
The influence of X-rays on breast cancer is beyond the scope of this article. Readers interested in this should be aware of Dr. John Gofman’s new book on this topic. He presents evidence that medical X-rays, which include Fluoroscopy, Mammography and the use of X-rays in medical treatment is a major cause of breast cancer. The book discusses the interaction of radiation with other carcinogens, including the pesticides described in this article.
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Lita Lee, Ph.D.
Greenpeace, Toxic Trade Update, No. 6.4, Fourth Qtr. 1993, p. 25.
D’Argo, Joan and Joe Thornton, Breast Cancer: The Chlorine Connection, July, Aug., Sept. 1993.
Gofman, John, M.D., Preventing Breast Cancer: The Story of a Major, Proven, Preventable Cause Of This Disease, $15 prepaid including S&H, CNR, P.O. Box 421993, San Francisco, CA 94142.
McCarthy, Samantha, Congress Takes a Look at Estrogenic Pesticides and Breast Cancer, J. of Pesticide Reform, Vol. 12, No. 4, Winter 1993, by NCAP, Box 1393, Eugene, OR 97440. Phone: (503) 344-5044.
McCarthy, Samantha, Environmental Hormones: Inadvertent Birth Control? J. of Pesticide Reform, Vol. 14, No. 3, Fall 1994.
Luoma, Jon R., New Effect of Pollutants: Hormone Mayhem, The New York Times, Science, March 24, 1992.
Raloff, Jane, EcoCancers: Do Environmental Factors Underlie a Breast Cancer Epidemic? Science News, Vol 144, No. 1 p. 10, 1993.
Riley, Becky, Poisonous Planes: Hazards of Air Travel, NCAP, Fall, 1994, Vol. 14, No. 3.
Seeds of Change Conference, October 21-13, 1994, San Francisco, CA. Audiotapes produced by Sounds True Recordings, 735 Walnut St., Boulder, CO 80302. Phone (303) 449-6229.
Seiber, Susan, National Cancer Institute, Study Links DDT to Risk of Cancer, The Associated Press, in The Register Guard, Eugene, OR, April 21, 1993.
The Associated Press, “DDT Exposure Linked to Breast Cancer in Women,” Townsend Letter for Doctors, July 1993. Article on Wolff’s research.
Wolff, M.S., et al., Blood Levels of Organochlorine Residues and Risk of Breast Cancer, J. of the National Cancer Institute, Vol 85 (#8), p. 648, April 21, 1993.