The toxic plague

Jun
28
2013
by
Lynne McTaggart
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Recently European scientists finally isolated the reason for the sudden, puzzling disappearance of entire colonies of bees. Although parasitic mites, deadly viruses and bacterial disease have been variously blamed for the phenomenon, study after study fingers the pesticides sprayed on plants and crops, which affect the ability of the bees to navigate and ultimately damages DNA.

Recently European scientists finally isolated the reason for the sudden, puzzling disappearance of entire colonies of bees. Although parasitic mites, deadly viruses and bacterial disease have been variously blamed for the phenomenon, study after study fingers the pesticides sprayed on plants and crops, which affect the ability of the bees to navigate and ultimately damages DNA.

Although the EU has now banned the pesticide thought to be most responsible, this discovery begs the obvious question:  if these chemicals are killing off the bees, what in God’s name are they doing to us? 

There’s no doubt that environmental chemicals are to the 21st century what viruses and bacteria were to the last century: the hidden source of most of the illness on the planet. In our everyday life we are now so immersed in chemicals—at last count there were 80,000 of them out there—that the names of the latest illnesses even hint at an environmental cause.

There is sick building syndrome, wood preservative syndrome, chemically associated immune dysfunction, Gulf War syndrome, not to mention more obtuse appellations like clinical ecology syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome and multiple chemical sensitivity.

Despite increasing evidence that chemicals are making many people ill, the crux of the problem is demonstrating clear cause and effect between a particularly chemical and damage, and which of our chemical pathways they disturb.

There is no way to determine, for instance, if a single chemical disrupts hormones, say, simply by examining its molecular make up. You have to subject it to a battery of tests, which, by the way, have yet to be devised.

There’s also the sheer number of tests you’d have to carry out.  Just imagine, for a moment, the prospect of testing 80,000 chemicals, one by one.

An even greater problem concerns the effect of these substances in tandem. We now know that the combined effect of two or three pesticides at low levels as might be found in most ordinary modern environments magnifies by up to 1600 times the effect of any insecticide by itself.

The Environmental Research Foundation publishes Rachel's Environment & Health Weekly, a named after Silent Spring author Rachel Carson. In one issue, the editors pondered the size of the task. “To test just the commonest 1000 toxic chemicals in unique combinations of three would require at least 166 million different experiments (and this disregards the need to study varying doses),” they wrote.

“Even if each experiment took just one hour to complete and 100 laboratories worked round the clock seven days a week, testing all possible unique three-way combinations of 1000 chemicals would still take over 180 years to complete." 

And then there’s the unimaginable effect of each of them magnified 1600 times multiplied by the 1600-times magnified effect of the 80,000 others. 

Or, to put it another way, as People Against Cancer’s founder Frank Weiwal once did, “There just aren’t enough zeros out there.”

That staggering notion requires all of us to shout a little louder at the chemical industry. At the moment, most chemicals are innocent until proven guilty.

If you don’t think this is possible, consider the case of the ‘live’ experiment occurring in Argentina in 1999, when genetically modified (GM) soybeans were planted on 19 million hectares—around half of Argentina’s cultivated land—and sprayed with 200 million litres of Monsanto’s Roundup, considered the Darth Vader of pesticides.

Three years later, doctors began reporting an epidemic of health effects around the affected farms: birth defects, infertility, stillbirths, miscarriages and cancers. Livestock and food crops died, and local streams were filled with dead fish.

The lead scientist studying this, Professor Andrés Carrasco from the University of Buenos Aires Medical School went public with his findings.  Although he subjected to lab raids and attempted personal attacks, he got his message out there and eventually prevailed.

After Carrasco’s findings were published, residents of one of Argentina’s GM soy-producing regions won a court order banning the use of Roundup sprays near homes.

The mouse roared against Monsanto—and won.

We must no longer allow the deadly triad of the medical, pharmaceutical and chemical giants to pretend that the beginnings of an environmental plague are all in our heads, a pretense that continues to allow them to get away with murder.

Lynne McTaggart

Lynne McTaggart is an award-winning journalist and the author of seven books, including the worldwide international bestsellers The Power of Eight, The Field, The Intention Experiment and The Bond, all considered seminal books of the New Science and now translated into some 30 languages.

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