Vice President Al Gore
January 22, 1996
Last year I wrote a foreword to the thirtieth anniversary edition
of Rachel Carson's classic work, Silent Spring. Little did
I realize that I would so soon be writing a foreword to a book that
is in many respects its sequel.
Thanks to Rachel Carson's clarion call, we developed new and vital
protections for the American public. Now Our Stolen Future
raises questions just as profound as those Carson raised thirty years
ago--questions for which we must seek answers.
Silent Spring was an eloquent and urgent warning about the
dangers posed by manmade pesticides. Carson not only described how
persistent chemicals were contaminating the natural world, she documented
how those chemicals were accumulating in our bodies. Since then, studies
of human breast milk and body fat have confirmed the extent of our
exposure. Human beings in such remote locations as Canada's far northern
Baffin Island now carry traces of persistent synthetic chemicals in
their bodies, including s uch notorious compounds as PCBs, DDT, and
dioxin. Even worse, in the womb and through breast milk, mothers pass
this chemical legacy on to the next generation.
As Carson warned in one of her last speeches, this contamination has
been an unprecedented experiment: "We are subjecting whole populations
to exposure to chemicals which animal experiments have proved to be
extremely poisonous and in many cases cumulati ve in their effects.
These exposures now begin at or before birth and--unless we change
our methods--will continue through the lifetime of those now living.
No one knows what the results will be because we have no previous
experience to guide us."
We are only now beginning to understand the consequences of this contamination.
Our Stolen Future takes up where Carson left off and reviews
a large and growing body of scientific evidence linking synthetic
chemicals to aberrant sexual development and b ehavioral and reproductive
problems. Although much of the evidence these scientific studies review
is for animal populations and ecological effects, there are important
implications for human health as well.
A decade ago, the ozone hole provided shocking evidence of the atmospheric
effects of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Last year, scientists declared
that human activity is changing the earth's climate. Today, reports
in leading medical journals point omino usly to hormone- disrupting
chemicals' effects on our fertility--on our children.
Our Stolen Future provides a vivid and readable account of
emerging scientific research about how a wide range of manmade chemicals
disrupt delicate hormone systems. These systems play a critical role
in processes ranging from human sexual development to behavior, intelligence,
and the functioning of the immune system.
Although scientists are just beginning to explore the implications
of this research, initial animal and human studies link these chemicals
to myriad effects, including low sperm counts; infertility; genital
deformities; hormonally triggered human cancers , such as those of
the breast and prostate gland; neurological disorders in children,
such as hyperactivity and deficits in attention; and developmental
and reproductive problems in wildlife.
The scientific case is still emerging, and our understanding of the
nature and magnitude of this threat is bound to evolve as research
advances. Moreover, because industrial chemicals have become a major
sector of the global economy, any evidence linkin g them to serious
ecological and human health problems is bound to generate controversy.
However, it is clear that the body of scientific research underlying
Our Stolen Future raises compelling and urgent questions that
must be addressed.
Responding to the mounting evidence, the National Academy of Sciences
has established an expert panel to assess the threats. That is an
important first step. We must also expand research efforts to learn
more about how these chemicals may do their damage, to identify how
many other synthetic chemicals possess such properties, and to discover
the extent to which we and our children are exposed. We need to understand
the often invisible damage they may cause. We must find out if there
are ways to prote ct children, who appear to be at greatest risk for
birth defects and developmental disorders from such hormonally active
compounds. We need to explore further the links between effects on
humans and those on wildlife.
We can never construct a society that is completely free of risk.
At a minimum, however, the American people have a right to know the
substances to which they and their children are being exposed and
to know everything that science can tell us about the hazards.
It is now clear that we waited too long to ask the right questions
about the CFCs that eventually attacked the ozone layer, and we are
going too slow in addressing the threat of climate change. We certainly
waited too long to ask the right questions abo ut PCBs, DDT, and other
chemicals, now banned, that presented serious human health risks.
Our Stolen Future is a critically important book that forces
us to ask new questions about the synthetic chemicals that we have
spread across this Earth. For the sake of our children and grandchildren,
we must urgently seek the answers. All of have the right to know and
an obligation to learn.