summaries of the book's chapters...
Basics of Our Stolen Future
Stolen Future examines the ways that certain synthetic chemicals
interfere with hormonal messages involved in the control of growth
and development, especially in the fetus.
developing fetus uses these natural hormonal messages, which come
from both from its own hormone system and from its mother, to guide
development. They influence virtually all of the growing individual's
characteristics, from determining its sex to controlling the numbers
of toes and fingers to shaping intricate details of brain structure.
research accumulating over the last 50 years, and accelerating during
the 1990's, has revealed that this hormonal control of development
is vulnerable to disruption by synthetic chemicals. Through a variety
of mechanisms, hormone-disrupting chemicals (also known as endocrine
disrupting chemicals or endocrine disruptors) interfere with the natural
messages and alter the course of development, with potential affects
on virtually all aspects of bodily function.
Stolen Future explores the scientific discovery of endocrine disruption.
The investigation begins with wildlife, as it was in animals that
the first hints of widespread endocrine disruption appeared. The book
then examines a series of experiments examining endocrine disruption
of animals in the laboratory which show conclusively that fetal exposure
to endocrine disrupting chemicals can wreak life-long damage. These
experiments also reveal some of the biological processes by which
these chemicals have their effects, and that --in contrast to the
dynamics of carcinogenicity-- endocrine disruption effects can be
caused by exposure to infinitesimally small amounts of contaminant.
Moving from animals to people, Our Stolen Future summarizes
a series of well-studied examples where people have been affected
by endocrine disrupting chemicals, most notably the synthetic hormone
to which several million women were exposed through misguided medical
attempts to manage difficult pregnancies in the 1950s, '60s and '70s.
[Research on DES continues; a 1999 summary is available on the web.]
then asks a broader, more difficult and more controversial set of
questions. Given what is known from wildlife and laboratory studies,
and from examples of well-studied human exposure, and given that exposure
to endocrine disrupting chemicals in the real world is widespread
at levels comparable to those sufficient to cause animal harm, what
effects should health scientists be looking for in people in general?
Effects to be expected include declines in fertility and other impacts
on the reproductive system of both men and women, impairments in disease
resistance, and erosions in intelligence.
evidence on each of these predictions available through to the book's
publication in 1996 is incomplete. As we readily acknowledge in Our
Stolen Future, some patterns are consistent with expectations,
indeed highly suggestive, but existing epidemiological studies of
people are insufficient to establish scientific certainty. The evidence
since 1996 has become substantially stronger. You can find an overview
of the broad trends in
new endocrine disruptor research and many details
elsewhere on this website, including recent developments.
judgement, while scientific certainty is not yet available, sufficient
evidence exists to justify a series of steps: in research, in public
policy and in personal safeguards. The book examines each of these
themes. Most importantly, we caution that the world-wide exposure
to endocrine disruption has thrust everyone into a large-scale, unplanned,
unintended experiment with health, the outcome of which may not be
known for generations. Given the magnitude of plausible risk, we believe
that dramatic measures should be taken to lower exposure to endocrine
disrupting chemicals as rapidly as possible.