Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Better birth and growth defects through chemistry

Years ago while I was still in high school I would sometimes hear my uncles curiously reflect that the physical attributes of the girls I went to school with seemed to have developed far earlier than the young girls they knew while in high school themselves. This was not just some lewd excuse to ogle the attractive young ladies because they were far from the only ones making that observation and such remarks were not limited just to girls. I have heard people say many times that young guys are shaving far sooner than their fathers did and that they are physically maturing far faster as well. Case in point is that my son is thirteen and is now, in a limited way, shaving himself and is nearly six feet tall. I didn't even begin to worry about facial hair until much later and I didn't hit six foot until sixteen.

Every once and while some scientific report will surface giving credence to such anecdotal observations. The reports will state that the artificial growth hormones feed or injected into dairy cows are bleeding over into the milk they produce resulting in the faster development or maturing of children. Of course a whole army of counter reports and high paid scientists and spin doctors will flood the media assuring us that the milk supply is as safe and wholesome as it was in the good old days.

Being honest here but that may very well be the case. I'm not a scientist although I will say my understanding of science is far better than my educational contemporaries and even better than many of the post-graduate level college types I know. Digressing here but for example I once had a conversation with a lawyer friend of my wife's that didn't know the difference between nuclear fission and fusion.

But getting back on point, even if the hormones in milk are harmless we are flooded in this day and age with artificial chemicals in every aspect of our lives from work to home. We willingly bath ourselves in cleaning agents to sanitize our homes, air fresheners to hide the normal smell of pets and people, food additives to preserve or make what we eat taste better, and spray very toxic chemicals into the open environment to control pests that feed of the crops we eat.

These compounds are tested and said to be safe but even the manufactures state their products are harmful beyond certain levels. So for me at least the question is still open as to whether all the wonderful things the science of chemistry has wrought don't work their way down to our children. You might find the following transcript interesting. Oh yeah Happy Earth Day everyone.

CURWOOD: From the Jennifer and Ted Stanley Studios in Somerville, Massachusetts - this is Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood.

YOUNG: And I'm Jeff Young in Washington.

When crops go in the ground and start to grow, it's the time for conventional farmers to apply chemical weed killers.

For example, millions of pounds of Atrazine are applied on US farms each year, even though the herbicide is banned in Europe.

And it should not be surprising that between April and July, there tend to be higher levels of pesticides in water than during the rest of the year, as the U.S. Geological Survey has found.

CURWOOD: What is surprising is new research that shows an association between the time of conception, pesticide levels, and the likelihood of crippling or fatal birth defects.

The research is being led by Paul Winchester, a neonatologist. His curiosity was aroused when he encountered a high level of birth defects when he began working in the heart of farm country at St. Francis Hospital in Indianapolis.

Dr. Winchester, what exactly did you find?

WINCHESTER: We found that birth defects like spina bifida, cleft pallet and lip, down syndrome, urogenital abnormalities, club foot among others are some of the birth defects that are more likely to occur for women who conceive between April and July. That time period coincides quite well with the time period when surface waters measured across the U.S. are having significantly more pesticides in their concentration than any other times of year.


Randal Graves said...

Your place can be as depressing as a visit to dcap's. And some of us aren't ever gonna hit six feet. ;-)

I don't recall the exact amount, but the number of chemicals in the typical human of the industrialized West runs in the thousands, I believe.

Air "fresheners," if not the worst, are far too common. Just open a window, people. And if it's winter, suck it up. Some people go overboard, and their homes smell like a stroll through the perfume section at a department store.

Man, I'm hungry. I think I'm going to have some fruits and veggies with my pesticides.

Beach Bum said...

My wife is personally supporting the air freshener industry. She buys the newest gadget as soon as it hits the store shelves. I just don't know Randal, at heart I'm still white trailer trash because other than major stinks what we did was open the windows. Of course we didn't have a clothes dryer in my grandparents house until 1987. That absolutely freaks my wife and in-laws.

Utah Savage said...

Truth be told I think we all need to get back to hanging laundry outside and letting it dry the natural way. I'd save a lot on my gas bill if I did that.

I got DDT poisoning in LA in the very early 60's. Had to be hospitalized very briefly. I can't remember any treatment other than ointments and observation. But I was on one of the private beaches that had been sprayed to keep sand fleas down.

I drink organic milk, but buy melons from Guatemala where they are spraying the pesticides that have been banned here. This is another of the fucked up things we do. Our better living through chemicals companies, just export those pesticides once banned here. Agent orange is a damn good chemical to get rid of things that grow but it kills people too. Remember it's use in Vietnam?

As you can tell I could go on and on with this, but I need to go watch Keith. So you can say you've been saved by Olbermann.

MadMike said...

I hang out my laundry, at least the big stuff. I never gave much thought to air fresheners but I will now. I have to agree with Randall on this post, but what you said Beach needed to be said. I do a lot of that at my place too....

lime said...

wow, that certainly is a disturbing correlation isn't it?

oh and to weigh in on the air freshener debate, i don't see the point. open windows indeed. febreeze is evil. and i am thrilled that this weekend i can finally hang my laundry outdoors.

Beach Bum said...

Utah: would you believe that in the glorious suburb I live in you can't have a clothes line.

MadMike: My thing on air fresheners is that I can't believe all the marketing and time spent on the invention of new gizmos. Dear Lord, if we put as much effort into other problems the world would be a better place beside smelling like a cheap whore.

Lime: My mom-in-law has one of the new electrically powered air fresheners in every room of her house. She refuses to open a window and I sneeze my head off if I stay in her house too long.