In the northern waters of Canada's St. Lawrence River, biologists have discovered pods of beluga whales with some of the highest cancer rates of any wild animal studied. Dozens of chemicals have been discovered in the bodies of these belugas. Some dead belugas are so full of pollutants and chemical mixtures from the water that they technically qualify as hazardous waste. It's these chemical mixtures, as opposed to any one chemical in particular, that are causing scientists like biologistRobert Michaud to worry. Michaud has spent two decades studying belugas, photographing them, tracking them, performing genetic analyses on their populations, trying to understand their lives and the impact of chemicals on these animals.
PathologistSylvain DeGuise draws blood samples from healthy belugas at the Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut. Back at his lab, he tests the sensitivity of the whale's immune cells to a variety of chemical cocktails. In his research, DeGuise has found that two chemicals individually may not be toxic but when mixed may turn toxic. Their toxicity is not due to a simple doubling of the dosage. Instead their toxicity spawns from the interactions between the two chemicals. Furthermore, DeGuise has found that combinations of multiple chemicals can act synergistically, antagonistically or neutrally. The possible number of interactions is overwhelming given the fact that the US Federal Government alone registers an average of 2,000 newly synthesized chemicals each year.
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Some of the low-lights of the article included facts like: 300 contaminants have been detected in umbilical cord blood of newborn babies which means that these babies were already polluted when they were born.
The other very disturbing detail that came out was a line from the report which says, “Only a few hundred of the more than 80,000 chemicals in use in the United States have been tested for safety.”
Just think of it. Only about 79,800 other chemicals might be dangerous. Heck, the food industry is already screaming because there is a bill before the Senate to ban bisphenol-A, commonly found in plastics from food and beverage containers. Right or wrong, BPA has been on the endangered drug list for years.
OK, unless you make your living from treating these folks, here’s the really bad news. About 41 percent of Americans will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives, both Republicans and Democrats. So, the issue shouldn’t be a political issue, but, because it is also an economic issue, it is not being addressed adequately.
As a healthcare professional, I find it tough to see the new statistics involving the cancers that are becoming more and more common in children. Could these cancers be happening because of chemicals in our food, water, air and household products, or is it just Mother Nature trying like heck to keep the seven billion of us from destroying her planet? You know, kind of a guaranteed thinning of the herd?
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