our stolen futurea book by theo colborn, dianne dumanoski, and john peterson myers



vice president al gore
january 22, 1996

last year i wrote a foreword to the thirtieth anniversary edition of rachel carson's classic work, silent spring. little did i realize that i would so soon be writing a foreword to a book that is in many respects its sequel.

thanks to rachel carson's clarion call, we developed new and vital protections for the american public. now our stolen future raises questions just as profound as those carson raised thirty years ago--questions for which we must seek answers.

silent spring was an eloquent and urgent warning about the dangers posed by manmade pesticides. carson not only described how persistent chemicals were contaminating the natural world, she documented how those chemicals were accumulating in our bodies. since then, studies of human breast milk and body fat have confirmed the extent of our exposure. human beings in such remote locations as canada's far northern baffin island now carry traces of persistent synthetic chemicals in their bodies, including s uch notorious compounds as pcbs, ddt, and dioxin. even worse, in the womb and through breast milk, mothers pass this chemical legacy on to the next generation.

as carson warned in one of her last speeches, this contamination has been an unprecedented experiment: "we are subjecting whole populations to exposure to chemicals which animal experiments have proved to be extremely poisonous and in many cases cumulati ve in their effects. these exposures now begin at or before birth and--unless we change our methods--will continue through the lifetime of those now living. no one knows what the results will be because we have no previous experience to guide us."

we are only now beginning to understand the consequences of this contamination. our stolen future takes up where carson left off and reviews a large and growing body of scientific evidence linking synthetic chemicals to aberrant sexual development and b ehavioral and reproductive problems. although much of the evidence these scientific studies review is for animal populations and ecological effects, there are important implications for human health as well.

a decade ago, the ozone hole provided shocking evidence of the atmospheric effects of chlorofluorocarbons (cfcs). last year, scientists declared that human activity is changing the earth's climate. today, reports in leading medical journals point omino usly to hormone- disrupting chemicals' effects on our fertility--on our children.

our stolen future provides a vivid and readable account of emerging scientific research about how a wide range of manmade chemicals disrupt delicate hormone systems. these systems play a critical role in processes ranging from human sexual development to behavior, intelligence, and the functioning of the immune system.

although scientists are just beginning to explore the implications of this research, initial animal and human studies link these chemicals to myriad effects, including low sperm counts; infertility; genital deformities; hormonally triggered human cancers , such as those of the breast and prostate gland; neurological disorders in children, such as hyperactivity and deficits in attention; and developmental and reproductive problems in wildlife.

the scientific case is still emerging, and our understanding of the nature and magnitude of this threat is bound to evolve as research advances. moreover, because industrial chemicals have become a major sector of the global economy, any evidence linkin g them to serious ecological and human health problems is bound to generate controversy. however, it is clear that the body of scientific research underlying our stolen future raises compelling and urgent questions that must be addressed.

responding to the mounting evidence, the national academy of sciences has established an expert panel to assess the threats. that is an important first step. we must also expand research efforts to learn more about how these chemicals may do their damage, to identify how many other synthetic chemicals possess such properties, and to discover the extent to which we and our children are exposed. we need to understand the often invisible damage they may cause. we must find out if there are ways to prote ct children, who appear to be at greatest risk for birth defects and developmental disorders from such hormonally active compounds. we need to explore further the links between effects on humans and those on wildlife.

we can never construct a society that is completely free of risk. at a minimum, however, the american people have a right to know the substances to which they and their children are being exposed and to know everything that science can tell us about the hazards.

it is now clear that we waited too long to ask the right questions about the cfcs that eventually attacked the ozone layer, and we are going too slow in addressing the threat of climate change. we certainly waited too long to ask the right questions abo ut pcbs, ddt, and other chemicals, now banned, that presented serious human health risks.

our stolen future is a critically important book that forces us to ask new questions about the synthetic chemicals that we have spread across this earth. for the sake of our children and grandchildren, we must urgently seek the answers. all of have the right to know and an obligation to learn.




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