Emerging Evidence of Dangerously Polluted Water Supply

I recently listened to a lecture by a well-known researcher named Tyrone Hayes on the dangers posed by agricultural chemicals, specifically the endocrine disruptor atrazine, in the water supply. That this chemical can by itself cause development of female characteristics in frogs, rats, birds, fish, and other model organisms is now well-documented. Although, when looked at from a general health perspective, most of the animals tested experienced few to no ill-effects from exposure to environmental levels of these toxins. In fact of the dozens of agricultural chemicals tested by Hayes lab, few of them alone caused any statistically significant health effects on the lab subjects. This is how federal regulatory commissions, like the EPA, test for so-called “toxic” levels of chemicals in our environment, and this is how many national and international regulations are determined.

Further testing by Hayes’ lab and others on how certain combinations of chemicals act on model organisms started to reveal another story. At very small amounts mixtures of  commonly used agricultural chemicals (80 million pounds of atrazine was sprayed on American farms last year) start to create major developmental and immunological problems for the animals tested. And the lab results are widely exhibited in the field. Frogs exposed to run off from corn fields in the mid-west and tadpoles in the Salinas Valley were found to have bacterial menengitis, liver worms, kidney worms, be severely developmentally disabled, and unable to survive even common stresses on their immune system: benign yeast infections that normal, healthy tadpoles brush off without a second thought, kill or disable the chemically affected animals.

Researchers suggest the wide array of toxins in these environment are like pebbles in stream: individually, they don’t affect the flow of normal health, but taken as a whole, they can redirect the flow of chemicals inside the body far beyond the limits of healthy adaptation. The research suggests an important role of corticoids (stress hormones) in decreasing overall health and their stimulation and release by the environmental chemicals. By the way, humans share an almost identical endocrine system to all of the model organisms tested.

This map and article outline the problem in more human terms, describing the ubiquitous presence of toxic chemicals in the well-water supply. My hope is that as more is learned about the cumulative characteristics of environmental pressures on ecosystems and individual organisms, regulatory bodies will begin to look more closely at the broad-scale effects of a poisoned environment, not just the relatively small effects from individual chemicals.

I'm gonna start filtering everything: water, juice, beer...