Thursday, April 4, 2013

Toxins: Why I don't entirely trust scientific reports; Why I follow the Precautionary Principle

The information I will be presenting will be very basic and a collection of facts, statistics, experiences and speculations from the world over. Though I do refer scientific journals to see what they are saying, I don’t go by them entirely. Here is why.

There are about 83,000 synthetic chemicals in use today. 700 new synthetic chemicals are being introduced into the US market each year without any requirement for safety tests.

It is not easy to establish with sufficient evidence, the toxicity of individual chemicals for two reasons.

1.     Chemicals are always used in combination. It is humanly impossible to test the various permutations and combinations of those thousands of chemical compounds (i.e. their contra-indications and synergistic effects) for their safety!

2.     Human populations are very mobile and have long life-cycles, which makes it harder to establish their effect on them, when compared to plants (eg. Pesticides) which are immobile and have yearly crop cycles. The more the mobility, the more the variables to consider.

While after a lot of research on even banned chemicals such as Bisphenol A, scientists make conservative statements like this. “There remains considerable uncertainty whether the changes seen in the animal studies are directly applicable to humans, and whether they would result in clear adverse health effects,” said NTP Associate Director John Bucher, Ph.D. “But we have concluded that the possibility that BPA may affect human development cannot be dismissed.”

Have you heard about the horror story of disease and death in Kasargod, Kerala, where years of endosulfan spraying on cashew farms has poisoned an entire generation? Just type ‘endosulfan and kasargod’ on google-images, and the horror is literally just one click away. With every household having a crippled child or adult, and the sane people of whole world screaming out for its ban, the Indian scientists claimed that "there is no evidence to implicate or exonerate endosulfan as the causative factor of the health problems".

So, let’s leave the scientists out of telling us what is safe and what isn’t. Let them sit in their labs producing reports making their money. Let us, mothers and fathers get down to the act of saving our own children by taking the ‘precautionary principle’ approach.

The PP approach means that we don’t wait for a chemical to be proven unsafe in order to stop using it. We wait for enough evidence to prove that the chemical is absolutely safe in order to start using it. Other names for the PP approach are the ‘common-sense’ or the ‘better-to-be-safe-than-to-be-sorry’ approach.

The American President’s Cancer Panel (PCP) Report takes a strong, sensible stand based on the PP. “We can’t wait forever to learn about all the effects of chemicals. We need to act with whatever we know. And we already know enough to take it seriously!”

Like I have written in ‘Letting the feminine lead the way’, modern science uses a very linear and fragmented way of understanding problems and designing solutions. Unless we fundamentally change the question we are asking and our approach to understanding the problem of toxicity, we have no hope of recovery from this deep crisis.