The current administration would have us deny transgender individuals health care discrimination protections. On a related note are late-night infomercials that would have us believe the most serious problem society faces is unquestionably erectile dysfunction. Yet there is a far more serious ED, a looming environmental problem of our own making.
Endocrine disruptors such as atrazine, an herbicide, were in 2010 found responsible for feminizing frogs. Other EDs – and their name, unfortunately, is Legion (think DDT, polychlorinated biphenyls like bisphenol-A, and dioxins) – enlarge the prostates in male mice whose mothers or grandmothers were the ones exposed to low doses during their pregnancies, even at a rate 25 times lower that what the EPA — currently compromised like all of Trump’s appointees — would have us believe is the ED safety threshold.
What are endocrine disruptors – even those recently discovered as a part of diabetes medications – doing to humans? Are they creating boys who not only identify with girls, but are girls at heart? Do EDs cause deformities of human male sex organs?
Scientists funded by the government have found indisputable evidence of trouble, from hyperactivity to a rise in the risks of breast cancer to missing sex organs or parts thereof. Yet some politicians, in the polluters’ pockets, want us to shut up and let the chemical companies call the shots and make the laws weaker than the pittance we have now.
The United States imports or makes more than 70 million pounds of chemicals a day, most of which give no clue as to their amplifying or terrifying interactions together. Neither their makers nor we the people have any idea what these are, whether in combination with others, in what quantities, with our water or air or soil or with us, whether they are benign or horrors.
The chemical industry has been using the same tactics and lawyers from Big Tobacco’s stables, promoting misleading and patently false information, trying to pass it off as unbiased research.
Knowing many citizens have heard BPA can cause unwanted changes to fetuses, they claim there are safe plastics that are BPA-free. There might be some without BPA, but they aren’t without problems of their own.
They want us to believe we can keep buying and using whatever we please in the way of takeout containers, blister packs, plastic picnic ware, everything from syringes to sippy cups. It isn’t so: a strain of rat for test subjects which, perversely, don’t respond to BPA-like synthetic hormones was used by the plastics manufacturers to skew the results. Even those few plastics made from corn – marketed as compostable and biodegradable – test positive 91% of the time for EDs or estrogenic activity.
For too long, corporations have been allowed to make and package at will, without any consideration for where the product/packaging winds up; microbeads of plastic have washed into the Great Lakes, drinking water for Chicagoland and millions more. The fleece garments we have come to think of as making winter bearable – made from recycled plastic bottles! – shed microfibers which form into rafts of plastics in the world’s waters, when we can be sure nothing is able to filter them out, another sacrifice Big Chem has forced on us, on the altar of their obscene profit margins. Companies which insist they must have plastic bottles should have from the beginning been taxed at a higher rate to ensure there was a way to safely dispose of them, which as of this writing does not exist. They should have been forced to pay for research into better materials, so that taxpayers would not be left holding the clean-up bag as we are now.
Pollution has for too long been something we were expected to endure, the price of progress. Why should any of us have to continue to suck it up? The result is nothing better than that the often rich owners continue to ignore the messes their profitable enterprises have left behind, and if they do have a spill that can’t be contained, such as 2014’s thousands of pounds of coal ash, arsenic, and other heavy metals into the Dan River, the owners, in this case Duke Energy, attempt to shirk their responsibilities by declaring bankruptcy! Union Carbide tried to pay off those Indian victims in Bhopal, still the worst industrial disaster in the world. Apparently no-one ever taught any of them we all have to clean up after ourselves.
A partial solution (for now) is for all communities to return immediately in some ways to the past’s better techniques: a bottle bill encouraging people to bring their glass bottles back to the point of sale for a small deposit would lessen litter and landfill, create jobs, and make plastic soda and beer bottles and milk jugs an unpleasant and eventually distant memory. We cannot continue to be lazy and pollute each other because plastics are lighter and they have been allowed to be cheaper.
In China and India, the one-child rule means the preference for sons has resulted in millions of female infanticides, as it has in other developing countries. The son preference is itself a throwback to past centuries and sometimes seems unstoppable. In the US, about a third of all pregnancies result in the embryo’s or fetus’s death, some before the woman knows she is pregnant; approximately another 20% result in a not-optimally healthy child.
Of the ones that didn’t make it, an increasing number were male. Since 1970, Japan and the U.S. are “missing” more than a quarter-million boys – those that should have been expected but were never born or did not thrive past infancy (from Poisoned For Profit: How Toxins Are Making our Children Chronically Ill by Philip and Alice Shabecoff, 2010).
Every single embryo starts off with the same plumbing, and will become itself depending on what hormones or chemicals it is exposed to and when, while in utero. So the greater question for all societies is this: if it is our industries which, in pumping largely untested and unregulated chemicals into the water and air, causing fetuses’ gender dysphoria, if there is even a chance these chemicals, singly or in action with others, cause harm, and the offenders continue to operate with no regard for anything but their bottom line, why don’t governments force them to stop?
Recently New Zealand afforded a river the same protections as people. Instead of claiming to be able to “pray away the gay” or continuing to blame the victims of poisoning – actual or suspected, for how they turned out — when will we get a spine and indict those responsible for these damages?
People who are different did not choose to be that way. No-one should hate them or judge them for how they were born – nor deny them the same health care rights “normal” people feel entitled to. We must also get beyond saying “Well, she’s somebody’s daughter,” or “he’s my neighbor’s son,” and speak the universal truth: each of them is someone’s child, relative or other beloved one.
There must be a paradigm shift; politicians must immediately pivot from protecting the chemical makers to protecting soil, air, water, all people, and the rest of the plant and animal world we depend on.
If you own a factory that makes these products, use better and non-toxic source materials and packaging. If you’ve been buying the products with unpronounceable ingredient names or unknown ingredients for yourself or your family, follow our great-grandparents’ adage: “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” Stop blaming and punishing those you find unbearably different – take a deep breath, and work on your own transgressions!