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ARTS

McKay Jenkins talks about "Staying Healthy in a Toxic World"

Book advises paying more attention to the toxic chemicals pervading every inch of our lives

Photo: Laura Prichett, License: N/A, Created: 2010:06:06 23:40:54

Laura Prichett


We're not stupid people; all we want to do is be able to make good choices.

When I read this, I kept thinking this is literally a story about the future of our race, because it's affecting our children and all of our reproductive health.

It's not just cancer we're talking about. There's really quite a bit of hormonal issues we're talking about, especially with some of these plastics, because they mimic hormonal activity. People should not just be worried that they're going to grow a tumor out of their face, they should also be concerned [about] some of these trends like early adolescence for girls; girls are starting to adolesce at 10 now. Boys, there's like this national, not an epidemic, but a downward trend in sperm density; sperm counts are dropping all over the place. And why would that be? Well, one possibility is that these chemicals are messing with 
reproductive systems.

You start to recognize that everything that we use is made out of toxic chemicals, and therefore toxic chemicals are in every square inch of our lives … [and] we've been marinating in this stuff for, like, 70 years. Then you start to read these studies where they can find these chemicals in every inch of the earth. They can find toxic chemicals at the top of Mount Aconcagua, the highest mountain in South America. They can find beluga whales that have breast cancer. They test Inuit people in the Arctic and they've got it, and none of these people live near factories or anything, so you find that these chemicals blow around the world, and they just get into everybody's bodies. Then you've got scientists who say that in a laboratory these chemicals cause X, Y and Z problems for animals. So when an industry says something like, "Drinking out of that plastic cup is not gonna cause you to get cancer and you can't prove that it does," that's true. You can't prove that that cup is going to cause you to get cancer -

"You can't actually see your tumor grow while you're drinking out of 
the cup."

Right, but the same argument said smoking one cigarette is not going to cause you to get lung cancer. What common sense seems to say is that you saturate yourself in this stuff over time, and from multiple sources, and it can't lead to good things … [I tried] to break it down chapter by chapter and just lay out all the various ways that people get exposed to this type of thing. And you realize, to your horror, that it's pretty much everywhere you go.

It baffles me that when they started using chemicals nobody stopped to think about this. Why wasn't it regulated from the beginning?

The people who were first introduced to this culture of chemistry were the post-World War II generation. I talked to all kinds of people [who] remember being kids playing on the street and a truck would go by and spray them. They'd be spraying the lawns, but [the kids] would be gagging in DDT spray. So why wasn't that horrifying? It's because people thought this new technology being able to rid the world of bugs was a good thing. Who wants mosquitos? What they didn't think of was that these chemicals don't just kill bugs. They kill other things, and they stick around in the environment.

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