Age photo of Dr Bleaney in the George River, East Coast
On seeing the latest water testing results from DPIPWEa , it is extremely worrying that no consideration is apparently being given to the “soup” i.e. mixture effect of all chemicals present including wetting agents and fertilisers, and the chemicals present on non-testing days for all rivers including our raw drinking water.
And what is the relevance of the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines giving single health levels for the herbicides atrazine (now apparently 20ppb) and simazine (both endocrine disrupting chemicals) apparently “allowed” to be found in drinking water, but environmental guidelines are indeed much lower (13 ppb gives 95% protection for atrazine exposure only as a single toxicant), when soups of pesticides are being found - albeit with old-fashioned, under-reading, outmoded methodology?
Do our regulators not believe the International Society of Endocrinology’s Statement1 on the effects of very low doses of endocrine disrupting pesticides and chemicals?
Do our regulators not understand that chemicals are being listed which are very closely linked with autistic spectrum disorder and abnormal brain development in babies in the womb2 are those often found in river water e.g. some groups of pesticides and endocrine disrupting chemicals including lead and arsenic?
Some of these listed chemicals also pollute air, food and soil e.g. PAH released from burning wood and PCBs, and others are seen mostly in the home and office e.g. flame retardants. All of these chemicals are toxic concurrently; contamination is not an either /or situation, and mostly the pollution occurs invisibly.
Do our regulators not believe in the ANZECC Guidelines for testing protocols when mixtures are found? Or are our regulators – DPIPWE and DHHS - just holding a ‘faith’ that all will be well regardless of national guidelines, other scientific bodies evidence, and mounting international evidence on the pitfalls of allowing the pollution of waterways?
When is the review of aerial spraying of pesticides going to take place? It has been in progress now for 7 years and 2 proposals have been produced - each withdrawn because of industry pressure!
When will Tasmanian drinking water guidelines incorporate contemporary knowledge and not hide behind only mandating for bacterial contamination testing and bacterial levels in drinking water?
So much for the protection of environmental and human health which yet again has taken the back seat!
Dr Alison Bleaney OBE
Tas Public Environmental Health Network - http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.phptitle=Pollution_Information_Tasmania
National Toxic Network - http://www.ntn.org.au/
aMarch 2012 routine sampling - Gawler River, metsulfuron-methy at 0.11 ppb; Panatanna Rivulet, MCPA at 0.34 ppb, prometryn at 0.07 ppb, cyanazine trace levels, metalaxyl-M at trace levels, pirimicarb at trace levels, clomazone at < 1ppb, dimethenamid at < 1ppb: Sulphur Creek, MCPA at trace levels, prometryn at trace levels; Tuckers Creek, prometryn at 0.16ppb, ethofumesate at trace levels.
Scientists are observing with increasing alarm that some very common hormone-mimicking chemicals can have grotesque effects.
A widely used herbicide acts as a female hormone and feminizes male animals in the wild. Thus male frogs can have female organs, and some male fish actually produce eggs. In a Florida lake contaminated by these chemicals, male alligators have tiny penises.
These days there is also growing evidence linking this class of chemicals to problems in humans. These include breast cancer, infertility, low sperm counts, genital deformities, early menstruation and even diabetes and obesity.
Philip Landrigan, a professor of pediatrics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, says that a congenital defect called hypospadias — a misplacement of the urethra — is now twice as common among newborn boys as it used to be. He suspects endocrine disruptors, so called because they can wreak havoc with the endocrine system that governs hormones.
Endocrine disruptors are everywhere. They’re in thermal receipts that come out of gas pumps and A.T.M.’s. They’re in canned foods, cosmetics, plastics and food packaging. Test your blood or urine, and you’ll surely find them there, as well as in human breast milk and in cord blood of newborn babies.
In this campaign year, we are bound to hear endless complaints about excessive government regulation. But here’s an area where scientists are increasingly critical of our government for its failure to tackle Big Chem and regulate endocrine disruptors adequately.
Last month, the Endocrine Society, the leading association of hormone experts, scolded the Food and Drug Administration for its failure to ban bisphenol-A, a common endocrine disruptor known as BPA, from food packaging. Last year, eight medical organizations representing genetics, gynecology, urology and other fields made a joint call in Science magazine for tighter regulation of endocrine disruptors.
Shouldn’t our government be as vigilant about threats in our grocery stores as in the mountains of Afghanistan?
Researchers warn that endocrine disruptors can trigger hormonal changes in the body that may not show up for decades. One called DES, a synthetic form of estrogen, was once routinely given to pregnant women to prevent miscarriage or morning sickness, and it did little harm to the women themselves. But it turned out to cause vaginal cancer and breast cancer decades later in their daughters, so it is now banned.
Scientists have long known the tiniest variations in hormone levels influence fetal development. For example ...