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Today is Rachel Carson's birthday! Rachel Carson (May 27, 1904 - April 14, 1964) was an extraordinary and courageous person, who is best known for exposing the harms of long-lasting pesticides. She was a marine biologist and author, who published several best-selling books about the environment.

Rachel Carson discussed health and environmental harms that synthetic pesticides, especially DDT, were causing to wildlife and our environment in the widely read book Silent Spring (published in 1962). Chemical companies fiercely opposed the book, but it spurred the American people to finally take action on pesticides. It led to a nationwide ban on DDT and other long-lasting pesticides, as well as helping inspire a grassroots environmental movement that led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

After her death, President Jimmy Carter awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom. (More about Rachel Carson) To this day, the book Silent Spring is considered an environmental classic, and one of the most significant publications of the last century.

One tribute to her work is the Silent Spring Institute, a national environmental health research organization dedicated to uncovering the links between chemicals in our everyday environment and women's health. Another focus is on breast cancer prevention (by lowering exposure to harmful chemicals, as well as encouraging companies to develop safer products). (Yes, Rachel Carson died of breast cancer.)

Some quotes from Rachel Carson. They still apply decades later:

"A Who's Who of pesticides is therefore of concern to us all. If we are going to live so intimately with these chemicals eating and drinking them, taking them into the very marrow of our bones - we had better know something about their nature and their power.”

"It is also an era dominated by industry, in which the right to make a dollar at whatever cost is seldom challenged."

"These sprays, dusts, and aerosols are now applied almost universally to farms, gardens, forests, and homes - nonselective chemicals that have the power to kill every insect, the 'good' and the 'bad,' to still the song of birds and the leaping of fish in the streams, to coat the leaves with a deadly film, and to linger on in soil-all this though the intended target may be only a few weeds or insects. Can anyone believe it is possible to lay down such a barrage of poisons on the surface of the earth without making it unfit for all life? They should not be called 'insecticides,' but 'biocides.' (Silent Spring, 1962)

Uh oh... Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide (plant-killer) in the world, and its pervasive use may be harming our gut microbiomes. Glyphosate (which is in Roundup) is used not only as a weed-killer, but also applied to glyphosate resistant genetically engineered (GE) crops such as soy, canola, corn, and also right before harvest (preharvest) on many grain crops. Thus we find glyphosate and glyphosate residues all around us, including in the foods we eat.

Researchers at the University of Turku  in Finland developed a bioinformatics tool to examine glyphosate effects on gut bacteria. They found that glyphosate kills many bacterial species found in the human gut, including such important keystone bacteria as Faecalibacterium prausnitzii. Their words: "54% of species in the core gut microbiome are sensitive to glyphosate". (A nice way of saying it kills them.) They summarize:

"A large proportion of bacteria in the gut microbiome (Qin et al., 2010) are susceptible to glyphosate (class I); thus, the intake of glyphosate may severely affect the composition of the human gut microbiome. "

Glyphosate has already been linked to a number of health problems (e.g. cancer, endocrine disruption). The gut microbiome or microbiota is the millions of microbes living in our intestines, and they are very important to our health. Imbalance or disruptions to our gut microbiome result in inflammation, chronic conditions, and diseases.

What to do? Try to eat as many organic foods, especially grains, soy, and corn, as possible. Organic farmers are not allowed to use glyphosate. Try to avoid using glyphosate-based herbicides on your property.  Unfortunately, our government agencies are not protecting us with regards to glyphosate, and the US allows higher glyphosate residues in food than in the European Union.

From Science Daily: Glyphosate may affect human gut microbiota

Glyphosate is the most commonly used broad-spectrum herbicide. Researchers from the University of Turku in Finland have developed a new bioinformatics tool to predict if a microbe, e.g. a human gut bacterium, is sensitive to glyphosate.  ...continue reading "Glyphosate May Be Having a Harmful Effect On Our Gut Microbiome"

There is much concern nowadays about all the many chemicals we are exposed to in our lives. These include pesticides, heavy metals (e.g. lead, mercury), and chemicals that act as endocrine disruptors (hormone disrupting chemicals), such as BPA and phthalates. These chemicals are all around us and are linked to all sorts of health effects, including chronic diseases and reproductive effects - such as infertility, declining sperm counts, adverse effects on the developing baby, and endometriosis.

There is an excellent 7 part series of webinars that one can watch called Generation Chemical: How Environmental Exposures are Affecting Reproductive Health and Development. Big names in the field discuss the latest science on the impact of harmful chemicals and pollutants on female and male reproductive health, pregnancy, and development, starting from preconception and through  life.

Yes, it's in depth, but also eye-opening. For example, the evidence is now raising the questions: Are fertile people healthier? Does poor sperm quality mean poorer health? Or earlier death? Research suggests that sperm count and quality are "canaries in the coal mine" for male health - evidence of harm to men from environmental and lifestyle influences.

Also, keep in mind that while you can't totally avoid harmful chemicals, you can really minimize your exposure and the levels measured in you. Avoiding Harmful Chemicals gives good ways to reduce exposures to harmful chemicals. This is especially important for both males and females if thinking about conception or pregnant.

SEVEN PART WEBINAR SERIES: 1) Introduction. Oct. 29, 2020. Discussed declining sperm counts that have been occurring worldwide over the last few decades - 52.4% decline in 38 years among men from Western countries, and the decline is still continuing. Effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) on men's and women's fertility, conception delay, pregnancy loss, some diseases, and endometriosis. ...continue reading "Top Scientists Explain How Harmful Chemicals Are Affecting Reproductive Health and Development"

Study after study finds all sorts of negative health effects from exposure to pesticides, including cancers, endocrine (hormone) disruption, and neurological effects.  Pesticide exposures can occur in the home, at work or school, in the air (drift), and in food and water. A recent study found that higher chronic pesticide exposure, such as occupational exposure (e.g. farm worker), is linked to developing Parkinson's disease.

University of California San Francisco (UCSF) researchers found the higher rates of Parkinson's disease both in people who have genetic susceptibility to developing the disease, and also in those who don't have a genetic susceptibility. Meaning everyone is at risk for developing Parkinson's disease with enough chronic exposure.

Studies find that chronic exposure to some pesticides has a higher risk for Parkinson's disease than others, and especially strong links are with the pesticides 2,4-D, chlorpyrifos, paraquat, glyphosate, and rotenone. Some countries, including in Europe and Canada, ban the use of some of these chemicals due to concerns about links to Parkinson’s, but the U.S. only restricts the use of some of them (e.g. paraquat).

Many pesticides are neurotoxins. Dr. Ray Dorsey (publisher of book: Ending Parkinson's Disease: A Prescription for Action ) said studies show a dose-response effect between chronic pesticide exposure and Parkinson's disease: "an almost perfect correlation between the amount of pesticides used in certain communities and the rates of PD. He points out that Parkinson's disease is the world's fastest growing brain disease with a lifetime risk of about 1 in 15. (That's high!)

Bottom line: Try to minimize your exposure to pesticides. Organic farms don't use the pesticides implicated in neurological harm - because organic standards don't allow it. Also, use organic or least-toxic Integrated Pest Management (IPM) for pest control in your home. Avoid using pesticides in your yard, especially the lawn. Stay away from recently pesticide treated areas. Eat organic foods as much as possible.

In the following article: sporadic Parkinson's disease means it happened spontaneously, which is different from someone having a genetic risk factor. From Beyond Pesticides: Pesticide Exposure Increases the Risk of Developing Gene-Specific and Sporadic Parkinson’s Disease Incidences

Research at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) finds that pesticide exposure increases the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease (PD), regardless of whether disease onset is idiopathic (spontaneous) or genetic (GBA genetic risk variant). Although the exact etiology [cause] of PD remains unknown, epidemiological and toxicological research repeatedly identifies exposure to pesticides, as well as specific gene-pesticide interactions, as significant adverse risk factors that contribute to PD. Furthermore, this study, “Gene Variants May Affect PD Risk After Pesticide Exposure,” suggests that environmental triggers like occupational exposure to pesticides can prompt PD in individuals with or without the genetic precursor ...continue reading "Pesticides Linked to Parkinson’s Disease"

This is rarely mentioned, but there is research showing that commonly used chemicals that we are exposed to, such as bisphenols (BPA, BPS), phthalates, persistent organic pollutants (e.g.flame retardants, nonstick cookware), heavy metals (e.g. lead), and some pesticides (e.g.chlorpyrifos, glyphosate), all have an impact on the gut microbiome in animals and humans.

For example, these chemicals may alter levels of certain microbial species, or alter the variety (diversity) and type of species in the gut, or increase intestinal inflammation. These alterations are associated with health effects, and the effects may be different depending on the stage of life. Yikes!

The human gut microbiome is the huge and complex community of microbes (fungi, bacteria, viruses) that live in our intestines and play important roles in our health. Trillions of microbes, hundreds of species. The presence of certain microbial species in the gut are associated with health, and the presence of certain other species are associated with disease. We know that what we eat and drink, whether we exercise, and other lifestyle factors can influence the gut microbes, but it appears we also need consider exposure to chemicals in the environment around us.

A recent study by University of Illinois researchers reviewed the environmental chemical and microbiome research, and found that many chemicals have an effect on the gut microbiome. They point out that humans are constantly exposed to hundreds of chemicals in the environment, and many get into humans (through inhalation, ingestion, absorption through the skin). Currently more than 300 environmental chemicals and their metabolites have been measured in humans (e.g. in blood and urine).

Many of these chemicals are endocrine disruptors, and many are associated with adverse health effects, including male and female reproductive and developmental defects, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular effects, liver disease, obesity, thyroid disorders, and immune effects.

By the way, gut microbiome effects are currently not considered by the EPA when regulating chemicals.

From Science Daily: Environmental contaminants alter gut microbiome, health

The microbes that inhabit our bodies are influenced by what we eat, drink, breathe and absorb through our skin, and most of us are chronically exposed to natural and human-made environmental contaminants. In a new paper, scientists from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign review the research linking dozens of environmental chemicals to changes in the gut microbiome and associated health challenges.  ...continue reading "Some Common Chemicals Alter the Gut Microbiome"

organic grains, oatsAchieve dramatically lower pesticide levels in your body in a few days! No need for "colonics" or "detox regimens". All one has to do is eat organic food to lower pesticide levels! And the more organic food in the diet, the better.

We ingest small amounts of pesticides when we eat and drink conventionally grown foods, and these pesticides can be measured in our urine and blood. Studies have found that switching to an organic diet lowers the amounts of pesticides (e.g. chlorpyrifos, 2,4-D) in the body, and now glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup) can be added to the list. This is because glyphosate is used to grow conventional foods, but it is not allowed to be used on organic crops or in organic food production.

A recent study found that eating an all organic diet lowered glyphosate and AMPA (glyphosate metabolite) levels, in both adults and children, more than 70% in 6 days. The study measured glyphosate and its metabolites (in the urine) in members of 4 families who typically did not eat organic food, and who lived in different parts of the US. During the organic phase lasting 6 days, all the food the 16 people ate was organic - it was provided to them.

Before the organic phase of the study, both glyphosate and AMPA (glyphosate metabolite) were detected in more than 93.5% of urine samples in the study participants. Glyphosate and AMPA levels were substantially higher in children than in their parents, and this was true in both the conventional and the organic diet phases of the study, even after levels went down. The researchers thought that perhaps children were getting more environmental exposures (parks and school grounds), or perhaps they metabolize the pesticide slower than adults. (It's unknown why.)

Glyphosate has been linked to cancer, to effects on the kidneys and liver, endocrine disruption, and alteration of the gut microbiome. The overwhelming majority of people have glyphosate or its metabolites in their bodies. We get pesticides into our bodies through inhalation, absorption through the skin, and we ingest them in foods and beverages. As more and more glyphosate is used each year on crops, the levels in our bodies have been increasing. ...continue reading "Lower Your Pesticide Levels By Eating Organic Foods"

For years scientists have warned of breast cancer links to some pesticides, while the EPA and the chemical industry pooh-poohed these associations. Just a coincidence, not true, studies poorly done, and ignore or attack were their common responses. Seeing a mismatch between scientific evidence and what the EPA was saying led researchers at the respected Silent Spring Institute to examine EPA pesticide documents and studies.

The big question: was the EPA deliberately ignoring evidence that some pesticides can cause mammary tumors (the equivalent of breast cancer in humans)? In other words, was the EPA ignoring evidence of some pesticides being carcinogenic when they were determining how to classify a pesticide and its risk assessment?

Their finding: Yes, the EPA was ignoring evidence for a number of pesticides causing mammary tumors. And because of this some pesticides are not labeled as cancer-causing (carcinogenic) by the FDA. Another problem they (and others) found is that the EPA is ignoring evidence about endocrine disruptors, and evidence that some chemicals have a bigger effect at smaller doses than big doses. The old view: the dose makes the poison, but now we know that doesn’t apply to endocrine disruptors which may have a bigger effect at smaller doses.

The scientists identified 28 pesticides that produced mammary tumors in studies, but the EPA acknowledged tumors only in nine, and dismissed the rest. The scientists strongly suggested that the EPA reassess cancer risks for some commonly used pesticides, including malathion, triclopyr, atrazine, propylene oxide, and 3-iodo-2-propynyl butylcarbamate (IPBC).

Another concerning problem (and not addressed at all by the EPA) is that 10 pesticides had reported effects on the mammary gland (other than tumors). For five of these pesticides (atrazine, chlorpyrifos, malathion, methoxychlor, and parathion) exposure during pregnancy or early life altered mammary gland development. What does this mean long-term? Will there be effects on lactation (breast-feeding)? (Some research suggests yes).

From Medical Xpress: Dozens of pesticides linked with mammary gland tumors in animal studies

In an analysis of how regulators review pesticides for their potential to cause cancer, researchers at Silent Spring Institute identified more than two dozen registered pesticides that were linked with mammary gland tumors in animal studies. The new findings raise concerns about how the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approves pesticides for use and the role of certain pesticides in the development of breast cancer.

Several years ago, a resident on Cape Cod in Massachusetts contacted researchers at Silent Spring looking for information on an herbicide called triclopyr. Utility companies were looking to spray the chemical below power lines on the Cape to control vegetation.  ...continue reading "EPA Needs to Look At Breast Cancer Risks From Pesticides"

Many studies find differences between organic and conventional foods, with more favorable results for organic foods (e.g. better nutritionally, lower pesticide residues). A study by Emory University researchers that analyzed samples of conventional and organic milk from different regions of the US adds to the list. They found  that the samples of conventional milk contained pesticides, antibiotics, and synthetic growth hormones, but none of these were found in organic milk.

The pesticide levels in the conventional milk varied among the samples, but included frequently used pesticides such as atrazine, permethrin, cypermethrin, chloroyrifos, and diazinon. Chlorpyrifos, found in 59% of the conventional milk samples, is the pesticide that scientists absolutely want banned because of its neurotoxic effects, especially on developing babies and children.  They also found that antibiotic residue levels in conventional milk samples surpassed federal limits for amoxicillin (3%), and illegal sulfamethazine (37%) and sulfathiazole (26%). Yikes!

These are important findings because milk is a staple in the diet of many people, especially children. By the way, international milk also can have pesticide and drug residues (e.g. Israel).

But not all organic milk is equal. Unfortunately a number of big so-called organic dairy farms (15,000 to 20,000 cows) are basically factory farms (e.g. Aurora Organic Dairy, Horizon) - they exploit loopholes in organic regulations, as well as deliberately not follow some organic standards. However, even low-quality organic milk has been shown to contain no residues of antibiotics and toxic pesticides - it's just that their milk nutritional profile is different than that of grass-fed organic cows.

Organic milk cows are supposed to be outside grazing during the growing season, at least 120 days a year - thus real organic milk is from "grass-fed" cows. Grass-fed cows (but not conventional and factory-farm organic cows) tend to produce milk with elevated levels of two types of fat: conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and omega-3 fat known as alpha-linolenic acid. Both have been associated with health benefits in humans, although the amounts found in milk are relatively small. Another type of fat called linoleic acid, (an omega-6 fat), tends to be lower in milk that is from pasture-fed cows.

The Cornucopia Institute has dairy scorecards and rankings of major organic milk brands, as well as other organic foods (e.g. poultry, cereal, eggs). Cornucopia is an organic agriculture watchdog group - an excellent resource to help you choose organic foods.

Some excerpts from the Jean A. Welsh et al. study in the journal Public Health Nutrition: Production-related contaminants (pesticides, antibiotics and hormones) in organic and conventionally produced milk samples sold in the USA

Conclusions: Current-use antibiotics and pesticides were undetectable in organic but prevalent in conventionally produced milk samples, with multiple samples exceeding federal limits. Higher bGH and IGF-1 levels in conventional milk suggest the presence of synthetic growth hormone. Further research is needed to understand the impact of these differences, if any, on consumers.   ...continue reading "Organic Milk Does Not Contain Toxic Pesticides Found In Conventional Milk"

Dogs exposed to lawn pesticides develop similar cancers as humans exposed to lawn pesticides, but in dogs the cancers appear with a much shorter time lag - only a few years. In contrast, human cancers can take decades to appear. This is why dogs can be viewed as "sentinel species" - they show risks or dangers due to chemical exposures in the environment earlier than humans.

This is why this study having both humans and dogs wear silicone monitoring devices to measure chemicals (pesticides, flame retardants, and phthalates) they are exposed to in the environment is so interesting. Both dogs and humans showed similar exposure levels to the chemicals. Think of it - whatever our pet dogs are exposed to in the environment, we also are exposed to it. And if something causes harm, we probably also are being harmed by it.

From Science Daily: Monitoring environmental exposures in dogs could be early warning system for human health

Man's best friend may also be man's best bet for figuring out how environmental chemicals could impact our health. Researchers from North Carolina State University and Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment used silicone dog tags as passive environmental samplers to collect information about everyday chemical exposures, and found that dogs could be an important sentinel species for the long term effects of environmental chemicals ...continue reading "Are Our Dogs Early Warning Systems For Harmful Chemical Exposures?"

Worried about the effects of persistent pesticides, flame retardants, and the chemicals used in non-stick pans (e.g.Teflon) on human health? An interesting small study from researchers at New York University looked at whether there is a link between having higher levels of these chemicals and celiac disease (a digestive disorder in which there is an abnormal response to foods with gluten). And yes, they found one.

Certain pesticides, flame retardants (PBDEs), and nonstick chemicals (PFASs) are known as persistent organic pollutants (POPs). They are known to be endocrine disruptors (meaning they disrupt the hormonal system). The researchers think that because there is an interplay between endocrine and immune systems, then perhaps these chemicals may contribute to the development of celiac disease in people who are genetically susceptible to it.

Thirty children and young adults newly diagnosed with celiac disease were compared to 58 individuals without the disease.  Higher levels of these chemicals were found in the blood in those with celiac disease, when compared to those without celiac disease.

More reasons to avoid non-stick pots and pans, avoid flame retardants, avoid using pesticides on lawns, and to eat organically raised foods.

From Futurity: CELIAC DIAGNOSIS MORE LIKELY WITH HIGHER BLOOD LEVELS OF PESTICIDES

Children and young adults with high blood levels of pesticides—and with high levels of pesticide-related chemicals called dichlorodiphenyldichlorethylenes—were twice as likely to receive a new diagnosis of celiac disease than those without high levels, report researchers.  ...continue reading "Certain Chemicals Linked to Celiac Disease"