Tuesday, May 4, 2010

An Environmental Health Risk

Feeling The Heat (8396)
Image credit: Echoey13

How often do you think about the chemicals in products you buy and if they could affect your health? We use a number of products every day from shampoo to cleaning products and we expect that the government regulates these products to make sure they are safe.

Unfortunately, in the past, certain chemicals have been discovered to affect our health only after they reached the market, as was the case for lead paint. Today, this is happening again with a group of compounds called endocrine disrupting chemicals, which mimic our hormones.

WWII increased demand for products, resulting in the development new uses for natural chemicals, which exposed us at higher levels, and the acceleration of the production of chemicals not previously found in nature. But no one thought about potential effects on our health, until Rachel Carson published Silent Spring. Her book raised awareness that chemicals could interact with our bodies.

Image credit: Beverly & Pack

Carson published evidence that the pesticide, DDT, had put the bald eagle on a path towards extinction, and if it was hurting wildlife, it could potentially be harmful to humans as well. DDT was considered a miracle pesticide and was used for everything from combating malaria to protecting cotton. However, Carson's book spurred national action that ultimately led to a ban of DDT.

Silent Spring was the beginning of an environmental movement, which I'll share some results of in more detail tomorrow.

This is Part 2 of 10 in our Chemical Exposures and Public Health series.
Part 1 - From Interest to Passion
Part 2 - An Environmental Health Risk
Part 3 - Lead: A Regulatory Success Story
Part 4 - Something My Body Needs Anyway?
Part 5 - Obesity's Elephant: Environmental Chemicals
Part 6 - Why Our Approach to Toxicology Must Change
Part 7 - Failures of U.S. Chemical Regulation
Part 8 - Cleaning Up Our Act
Part 9 - Environmental Health Research Saves Lives and Money
Part 10 - Call to Action

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