One of the comments from a young University student on the blog on 'fish eating' was really provocative which prompted the present effort to address her concern. The underlying message was that human beings are selfish because they have no consideration for other creatures in this planet affected by the indiscriminate pollution of the land, water and air but indulge in high decibel pronouncements and protective efforts to save them-selves from the harmful effects of eating the very same food contaminated by their mindless action in pursuit of pleasure and happiness. Evolution has ordained that man is supreme because of his 'brain', conferring on him unparalleled power for both development and destruction. It is the latter power that was coming to the fore during the last 2-3 decades destroying the nature to raise his pre-eminence further in this planet. That is where tragedy is lurking and that is what is going to consume the society within this century, if not checkmated now and here.
A major threat is looming ahead caused by the industry due to environment pollution resulting from emission of many chemicals into the atmosphere during manufacture, distribution and use of a number of consumer products. Some of these pollutants have been found to be capable of upsetting the hormonal actions in human body. One may wonder as to what this has got to do with the processed food industry. Well, food sector alone may not be responsible for the scary picture environmentalists draw but it contributes to some extent in aggravating the situation. More than 75000 synthetic chemicals have been introduced by the industrialized world for different purposes in furthering their ambition to become wealthier and happier and it is reported that about 1000 new chemicals are created each year for the same purpose. Chemicals like methoxychlor, carboryl, endosulfan, dielderin, parathion. lindane, synthetic pyrethroids, dioxanes, poly chlorinated phenols (PCBs), phthalates, styrene, alkyl phenols, heavy metal compounds, plastics, cosmetics, textile chemicals, paints, lubricants all contribute their 'might' in polluting the environment. These dangerous chemicals get entry to the human body through inhalation, ingestion and skin penetration. Many of them act as hormone disruptors through the endocrine system and are linked to high rates of breast cancer, endometriosis and other reproductive problems, decreased sperm counts, prostate and testicular cancers, thyroid disorders, diabetes and behavior abnormalities.
Endocrine system is an integrated system of small glands that release extra cellular signaling molecules, the hormones which are instrumental in regulating metabolism, growth development and puberty and tissue function. Even obesity has been related to endocrine malfunction. Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) act by mimicking or blocking the hormonal action or triggering abnormal response leading to undesirable consequences. They are generally slow to break down and can last centuries in the environment without degradation with potential to cause damage for multiple generations. Processed food industry has been accused of generating EDCs like Phthalates, Bis-phenol A, Dioxins etc which enter human system through ingestion and inhalation. Di(2-ethyl hexyl) phthalate (DEHP) is commonly used in the manufacture of PVC plastics to soften and increase flexibility of the finished product used widely by the industry for packing, piping, etc. Bis-phenol A is used in poly carbonate bottles and is a component in the can lacquers from where it leaches into food. There are 75 different Dioxins generated during burning of plastics like polyethylene, poly styrene and poly propylene packaging materials after use in food packing and they tend to adhere to waxy surfaces of leaves and enter the food chain.
What is causing concern is the cumulative quantity of these toxic chemicals that enter the human body through food containers, water, dust and hundreds of consumer products including bug sprays, perfumes, pesticides, shower curtains, plastic toys, etc. True, there are maximum permissible limits for some of the EDCs in individual products but collectively exposure could be much higher than what consumers can tolerate in the long term, especially when they are exposed to them 24 hours a day. Many of them are fat soluble and once they enter the human body get accumulated in the adipose tissues raising their level alarmingly. Because of this, people eating high fat foods like dairy products, beef etc are more vulnerable to EDC damage. More disturbing is the news that these chemicals can also affect future generations even if they are not exposed to EDCs during their life time. Are we mortgaging the future of our children, grand children, great grand children and beyond, by uncontrolled assimilation of EDCs from various sources unknowingly in our pursuit for pleasure and happiness NOW?
The purpose of this blog is not to confuse or scare the fellow denizens but to sensitize them to the dangers awaiting them in the modern day world, driven by ever new technological developments. It is the duty of every one to ponder as to how such environmental degradation can be arrested by conscious actions with a commitment. To begin with there is an urgent need to make our governments see the dangers ahead and launch an emergency program to assess the cumulative long term effects of the EDCs from all sources man comes in contact with and evolve appropriate safe limits for all of them on a daily intake basis. Even if it takes quiet some time to come up with right answers, a beginning must be made now. Why not rope in all the Universities to take up this mission for which generous funding and sufficient incentives are offered. Let us not create more 'devils' and let us not allow them to be part of our dinner any more!