Academic journal article Forum for Applied Research and Public Policy

Toxic Experiment

Academic journal article Forum for Applied Research and Public Policy

Toxic Experiment

Article excerpt

In "Endocrine Disruptors and Breast Cancer" (FORUM, Fall 1998), Julia Green Brody and her associates provide a bird's-eye view of the methodological complexity inherent in trying to determine the role of environmental estrogens in increasing the incidence of breast cancer. The careful analysis coordinated by the Silent Spring Institute, under contract from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, provides a wealth of information and generates further important questions, but it has produced no smoking gun.

The hypothesis that environmental estrogens are the most plausible factor in the increased cancer incidence in Cape Cod - as well as in Long Island, the San Francisco area, and Hawaii, where such increases have also been documented - is based on sound reasoning. After all, increased and prolonged exposure to estrogens - both synthetic and natural - is known to be the main risk factor in breast cancer incidence.

For over half a century, world populations have been exposed to a wide variety of synthetic chemical compounds never found in natural products. Remarkably, these substances were introduced into the environment with the best of intentions: to combat plagues, enhance crop yields, improve our standard of living, and augment our arsenal of therapeutic medicines. Now we are in the final phase of this experiment.

However, researchers using rigorous scientific methods to find evidence of deleterious effects of specific doses can't even distinguish between exposed and nonexposed populations, since everyone has been exposed to synthetic estrogens. Humans and wildlife have been subjected without consent to substances now known to affect their reproductive systems and other important physiological functions. …

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