Disrupting Unscientific Chemical Speculation
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Richard Morrison, 202.331.2273
<?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Washington, D.C., December 20, 2004—Recent discovery of a handful of abnormal smallmouth bass in the greater Washington, D.C. area has raised concerns that chemicals from agricultural and industrial sources are disrupting the lifecycles of aquatic life in the Potomac River basin. But, as with previous alarms over “endocrine disruptors,” the link between man-made chemicals in the watershed and serious health effects is speculative at best.
The undue concern over hormone-mimicking chemicals has overshadowed the fact that many plants naturally produce chemicals with the same properties. Animal and human diets include plants capable of creating the same effects allegedly observed in exposure to certain synthetic chemicals.
The further implication in recent weeks that Potomac basin fish might be linked to cancer rates in one small West Virginia county is completely unsubstantiated. As local officials in West Virginia have stated, there is no scientific evidence of a connection, nor is there enough statistical data to suggest cancer rates are higher than average. As public health officials have agreed, much more research is needed.
For more information on chemical risk and endocrine disruptors, see CEI’s Environmental Source briefing book at http://www.cei.org/pdf/2313.pdf (pp. 31-36).
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