Our Stolen Future: Are We Threatening Our Fertility, Intelligence and Survival?-a Scientific Detective Story

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Over thirty years ago, Rachel Carson's Silent Spring first warned that manmade chemicals had spread across the planet, permeating virtually every living creature and the most distant wilderness. Her landmark book documented the deadly toll of these synthetic chemicals to birds and wildlife. Only now, however, are we recognizing the full consequences of this insidious invasion, which is derailing sexual development and reproduction, not only in a host of animal populations but, it now appears, in humans as well. ...
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Overview

Over thirty years ago, Rachel Carson's Silent Spring first warned that manmade chemicals had spread across the planet, permeating virtually every living creature and the most distant wilderness. Her landmark book documented the deadly toll of these synthetic chemicals to birds and wildlife. Only now, however, are we recognizing the full consequences of this insidious invasion, which is derailing sexual development and reproduction, not only in a host of animal populations but, it now appears, in humans as well. Our Stolen Future, by two leading environmental scientists and an award-winning environmental journalist, is the first book to piece together the compelling evidence from wildlife studies, laboratory experiments, and human data and to lay out the emerging scientific case regarding this largely unrecognized threat. Picking up where Silent Spring left off, it reveals the underlying causes of the symptoms that had so alarmed Carson. Building on decades of research, the authors give a gripping account that traces birth defects, sexual abnormalities, and reproductive failures in wildlife to their source - synthetic chemicals that mimic natural hormones, upsetting normal reproductive and developmental processes. The conclusions drawn here are as urgent as they are inescapable. We must move aggressively to protect ourselves and our families in the short term and to begin vital long-term changes in the way we manufacture and employ the manmade compounds that have become an integral part of our "good life." This riveting and immensely important work is an indispensable volume for those concerned about the profound human impact on the environment, the integrity and survival of our species, and the well-being of our children.

While attention has long been focused on the effect of chemicals in our environment, little notice has been paid to the fact that human reproductive patterns are being disrupted in a way that may threaten the very survival of our species. In this book, two leading environmental scientists, writing with an award-winning journalist, provide a gripping account that dramatically explores the causes and implications of this disturbing development. Illustrations.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Since Silent Spring was first published, more than 30 years ago, the toxic properties of many chemicals have received wide attention. Environmental scientists Colborn and Myers, along with science journalist Dumanoski, argue in this frightening and provocative book that although much good has been accomplished by all that attention, our focus on the carcinogenicity of chemicals has led us to ignore a more insidious problem. Many substances in widespread use act, in minute quantities, to disrupt our hormone systems. Most at risk are those still in the womb, where even slight hormonal disturbances can dramatically alter developmental pathways, leading to a host of problems, including reduced fertility, altered behavior patterns and decreased immunity. The consequences can be staggering: "We worry about the power of hormone-disrupting chemicals to undermine and alter the characteristics that make us uniquely human-our behavior, intelligence, and capacity for social organization." A host of studies on animals as diverse as whales, panthers, fish, frogs, birds and polar bears supports the thesis of this involving book. (Mar.)
School Library Journal
Evidence tying abnormal animal behavior and deformities to worldwide industrialization leads to disturbing but inconclusive answers. A provocative review of the current research and problems left for future generations to resolve. (Feb.)
William Beatty
This thoroughly documented account of synthetic chemicals that the body accepts as hormones raises several major points. First, investigators and government officials should pay attention to these chemicals' functional and neurological effects rather than just to their effects on cancer and birth defects. Second, these chemicals do not act like ordinary poisons: while high doses may not cause problems, low doses are sometimes devastating, putting reproductive systems and developing brains in especial danger. The authors also deal with DES, PCBs, and dioxins in both animals and humans; citing examples, they show how animal studies have provided early warnings for human problems but have often been casually dismissed. Further, they suggest how to protect oneself and one's family. Emphasis in future work with synthetic chemicals, they say, should be not on abolishing them, but on redesigning them and their processes; and research support for studies of hormone-mimicking synthetics should have higher priority than research for genetic causes of medical problems because more can be done to counteract chemicals.
Kirkus Reviews
A new exposé points out the threat of chemical pollutants that mimic the hormones in our bodies, undercutting the natural cycles of growing organisms.

Dumanoski is a science reporter for the Boston Globe; Colborn and Myers are two of the environmental scientists who have pioneered the study of the biological effects of pollution. In the late 1980s, while studying the effects of pollution on the Great Lakes, Colborn began to recognize a pattern: the impairment of reproductive or growth cycles in various organisms. The evidence includes gull populations in which males are so scarce that females have taken to nesting together, eagles that have lost interest in mating, and alligators with deformed sexual organs. The culprits were PCBs, dioxin, DDE (a DDT breakdown product)—persistent chemicals that concentrate in the body fat of animals toward the top of the food chain and, ultimately, in human beings. Despite efforts to ban use of the chemicals, they are already ubiquitous in the environment—in everything from arctic ice to mother's milk—and some of them will not break down for centuries. Several studies indicate lowered sperm counts in human males over the last 50 years, quite possibly an effect of the increased use of the suspected chemicals. Dumanoski effectively dramatizes the story of Colborn's findings, explaining both the biochemical reactions and their environmental importance. On the difficult question of how to combat the pervasive threat, the authors have several suggestions: monitoring the quality of drinking water, not eating fish from waters known to be contaminated, avoiding animal fat in the diet, eating organic produce, avoiding contact between food and plastics. On a governmental level, increasing vigilance and regulation is a step in the right direction.

The authors' warning may seem alarmist to many, but in view of the potential threat to humanity as a whole, it would be folly to ignore it.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780525939825
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 3/28/1996
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.25 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 1.14 (d)

Table of Contents

Prologue
1 Omens 1
2 Hand-Me-Down Poisons 11
3 Chemical Messengers 29
4 Hormone Havoc 47
5 Fifty Ways to Lose Your Fertility 68
6 To the Ends of the Earth 87
7 A Single Hit 110
8 Here, There, and Everywhere 122
9 Chronicle of Loss 142
10 Altered Destinies 167
11 Beyond Cancer 198
12 Defending Ourselves 210
13 Loomings 231
14 Flying Blind 239
Appendix: The Wingspread Consensus Statement 251
Notes 261
Index 295
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