Just this past week, I re-read Rachel Carson’s groundbreaking book Silent Spring. First published in 1962, Silent Spring was a wake-up call, warning people about the devastating effects of chemical pesticides on humans and on wildlife. The book spurred changes in laws affecting our air, land, and water.
My husband reminded me that when he was a boy in the pre-Silent Spring era, he and his friends chased the “Skeeter Truck” on summer days in his suburban Philadelphia neighborhood, breathing in clouds of DDT fumes. DDT has since been banned in this country, and obviously we’ve learned a lot since then. And yet we still don’t fully understand the effects of the various chemicals that are in the products we consume, eat, drink, and use on a regular basis.
A few days ago, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote an op-ed piece, “It’s Time to Learn from the Frogs.” After watching Hedrick Smith’s Frontline show, “Poisoned Waters,” he became concerned about chemicals called endrocrine distruptors (you can watch the show online). These chemicals—widely used in agriculture, industry, and consumer products—have been connected to increases in frog deformities and might also be connected to the rise of abnormalities in newborn boys, particularly genital deformities.
If you go to Kristof’s blog, On the Ground, you can read over 200 comments about his op-ed piece (published June 27th). One of the commenters mentioned that the Rachel Carson Homestead is sponsoring a conference on September 25, 2009, to address this issue. If you click here, you can download from their website an informative 6-page PDF about endrocrine disruptors. I admit I was surprised to learn that a type called phthalates are found in plastics used for food and drink containers, plastic wraps, soft plastic children’s toys, shampoos, shower curtains, and nail polish—to name just to name a few. One would have to live in a plastic bubble to avoid them (or rather an organic non-plastic bubble). In a another post, I will explore the ways in which we can avoid at least some of these chemicals.
Carson’s legacy continues….
UPDATE: A couple of days after I wrote this, I found out that Stephen Colbert interviewed Nicholas Kristof about this subject on June 27th. Here’s a link to the Colbert Nation where you can watch the episode. I’m a big fan of Stephen Colbert. Here’s a fun fact you might not know: he once wanted to be a marine biologist.