U.S. manufacturers and agribusiness are addicted to endocrine disruptors — dangerous chemicals that alter the natural function of the body’s hormones. They are frequently used in plastics, in pesticides, and in personal care products and act in the human body as a “false” version of estrogen. They appear to be linked to a variety of diseases, including sexual dysfunction, heart disease, metabolic disorders, and cancer. New York Times columnist Nick Kristof wrote a frightening summary of the health and evironmental risks of this class of chemicals about a year ago that’s still timely.
Although the controversial plastic ingredient bisphenol-A, used in canned foods and baby bottles, is certainly the poster child for endocrine disruptors’ ubiquity, it is merely one of many. The pesticide atrazine, banned in the European Union but still widely overused in the U.S., is also a potent endocrine disruptor, as is the chemical oxybenzone, one of the most common ingredients in U.S.-sold sunscreen, though it too is banned in the E.U.
These, of course, are only the high-profile examples. For each one, industry threatens the End of Civilization in the event that the FDA attempts to restrict one or another. Atrazine, for example, is currently under review by the EPA. Despite the fact that European farmers seem to have maintained yields wthout the chemical, American agribusiness still manages to say with a straight face that banning atrazine will cause U.S. corn yields to drop precipitiously. Meanwhile, we learn that atrazine, one of the most common waterway contaminants in the entire country, can disrupt the hormone function (and reproduction) of fish at levels well below legal pollution limits.