Our Stolen Futurea book by Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski, and John Peterson Myers


Emerging science on the impacts of 
endocrine disruptors on the immune system and disease resistance.

The impact of endocrine disruptors on immune system function and disease resistance is poorly understood... at best we have very preliminary understanding of what may be going on. There are hints, nonetheless, that this may be one of the most important and far reaching routes by which endocrine disrupting chemicals undermine human health. Several studies and reviews (see below) indicate that contaminants can erode disease resistance in ways that make people mortally vulnerable to infectious diseases they might otherwise have been able to resist.

If this is the case, then the importance of contaminant effects on health have been vastly under-estimated, because disease statistics would attribute the death to the infectious agent, whereas it would not have occurred without contamination. A new paradigm for studying and preventing many infectious diseases may emerge, in which you need first to understand the contamination history and status of the person exposed to an infectious disease.


The phthalate DEHP increases allergic reaction to a mite allergen in mice at levels within the range deemed safe by current EPA standards. The dose-response relationship followed an inverted-U pattern, with an intermediate dose causing larger effects than the highest dose use. This is the first report of non-monotonic response for a phthalate. The results implicate DEHP as a possible causal agent in increasing prevalence of allergic reactions in developed countries. More...


Results from a study of people exposed to dioxin during the 1976 chemical plant accident in Seveso, Italy, indicate that the immune suppression effects of dioxin linger on for decades. More...

A study of the causes of frog deformities reveals that pesticides (atrazine, malathion and esfenvalerate) at very low levels impair the ability of frogs to resist infection by parasites. The parasite cysts imbedded in the growing tadpole then cause limb deformities. More...

Research on arsenic reveals a new mechanism of endocrine disruption and raises serious concerns about the potential impacts of very low level arsenic exposure on the ability of the human immune system to suppress tumor growth. Arsenic interferes with glucocorticoid's ability to turn on certain genes important to immune system function and to glucose metabolism. This new research hints at important new links between endocrine disruption and cancer as well as to diabetes. More...

A Dutch study indicates that PCB and dioxin contamination experienced during breast feeding weakens exposed infants' immune systems, making them more vulnerable to common childhood diseases. The work, by Nynke Weisglas-Kuperus and her colleagues at Sophia Children's Hospital in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, revealed that by the age of 3 1/2, children with elevated contaminants were 8 times more likely to have had chicken pox and 3 times more likely to have had at least 6 ear infections. More...

A study of Inuit children in arctic Canada reveals a positive association between organochlorine exposure and the likelihood of inner ear infections in the first year of life. OC exposure of these children is a result of the mother's consumption of contaminated traditional foods. Exposure occurs in the womb and via lactation. More...
Research reported by the US Centers for Disease Control and the US National Cancer Institute reveals an interaction between PCB contamination and a virus. The virus alone does not appear to raise the risk of non Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Elevated PCBs are associated with a slight increase in risk (about 3 fold). Together, however, elevated levels of PCBs and Epstein Barr virus increase the risk of non Hodgkin's Lymphoma by over 20-fold.

Statement from the Work Session on Chemically-induced Alterations in the Developing Immune System. A multidisciplinary group of international experts gathered in February 1995 in Racine, Wisconsin, to evaluate current science on the immune system effects of chemical contaminants. Workshop participants. The consensus statement was published in Environmental Health Perspectives [(Suppl 4): 807-808, 1996] along with a collection of scientific papers presented at the meeting.

  In a March 1996 report from the World Resources Institute, Robert Repetto and Sanjay Baliga review numerous studies showing that many pesticides damage the immune system, concluding "existing evidence of a significant worldwide public health risk justifies both greater efforts to reduce pesticide exposures and much-expanded research into pesticide-induced immunosuppression and its health consequences."





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