For years, we have been warned of the dangers of second-hand smoke. We are told that second-hand smoke blackens lungs, causes cancer, offends women, injures children, creates untold medical expense and causes the clock on your VCR to blink (alright, I made the last one up). As the formerly asthmatic son of a life-long smoker, I must admit that I have no love for the smell of cigarette smoke, but I must also admit that the evidence for the wealth of claimed dangers has never been particularly strong. Still, on the basis of rather tenuous evidence, smoking has been banned on airlines, in workplaces and in public areas around the nation. Who wants to breathe air someone else has fouled?
Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said that foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. At the risk of summoning hobgoblins, let us apply the standards that we hold so dear for community air to community water. Certainly the environmentalists could not be offended by the principle. Or could they?
What if we were to speak not of industrial corporations spewing waste into streams, nor of run-off from agriculture fertilizer that contaminates so many water tables, but of another source of deliberate contamination? Let us strike a little close closer to home – let us open the door on the family medicine cabinet.
Or, to be more precise, let us open the door on the American individual’s sterility cabinet, for it is the synthetic female estrogen and progesterone hormones that have allowed this country to become the great and childless nation that it is today.
But to properly savor the experience, we must first recall to mind a few facts concerning hormonal contraceptives in pill, patch, shot and now ring. When the birth control pill was first released, it was so dangerous that reports of its side effects created the Congressional committee which developed the now-ubiquitous drug package insert. The pill caused strokes, blood clots, liver problems, vitamin and metal imbalances, headaches, weight gain, hair loss and decreased libido, and those are just the highlights.
Just as the tobacco industry was forced to develop the low-tar and filter cigarettes to fend off critics of early death, so the pharmaceutical industry was forced to develop low-dose estrogen and progesterone only pills.
The problem, of course, is that the new drug formulations do not prevent ovulation. Instead, they prevent pregnancy by preventing the embryo from implanting. They cause abortions.
The pharmaceutical companies, realizing the problem, fought hard to implement a solution. They wanted to re-define when life begins. After all, this is easier than formulating a safe hormonal contraceptive.
They succeeded. Newsmakers in the medical community now insist pregnancy only begins at implantation, thus everyone can say with a straight face that hormonal contraceptives do not cause abortion.
But the problems didn’t stop there. Just as the cigarette companies had diversified their market by advertising to younger and younger audiences, the pharmaceutical companies began a similar diversification. They not only began to market to younger and younger audiences, but also to the aged. Tobacco helps us lose weight; synthetic estrogens, according to the pharmaceutical companies, were just the thing for the treatment of menopause, a biological condition which apparently is now a disease.
Unfortunately, as with the tobacco companies, science intervened. Not one but two massive national studies had to be shut down as initial data showed that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was massively lethal to older women. The mainstream news media were at pains to ignore the fact that virtually the same estrogens were used in both HRT and every hormonal contraceptive. Why such drugs would be acceptable for younger and middle-aged women while being unacceptable for older women was never commented on, much less explained.
So, why does all this matter? Well, ask the environmentalists. For years, environmental scientists have known that the synthetic hormones from birth control pills are being flushed into aquifers, rivers and streams and have been causing catastrophic feminization in fish and wildlife populations.
Between 30 and 60% of the synthetic hormones and the biologically active metabolites from the birth control pill are excreted in the urine of a drugged woman. Sewage treatment plants do not remove this drug effluent. Septic tanks do not remove it either. The patch and the estrogen ring are even more concentrated sources of synthetic hormones, containing as much as three to six month’s concentrated supply of synthetic, biologically active hormone. Rainwater seeping through garbage dumps rinse the drugs out into the water table, assuming the septic tanks and treated sewage water haven't gotten there first.
Recent studies show that these same synthetic estrogens cause prostate deformities in men and kidney disease in both sexes. Since cancer cells are notorious for the proliferation of estrogen receptors, these hormones are also actively suspected as being the fuel for many cancers. They are likewise suspected as a principle culprit in reports of falling sperm counts throughout the developed world.
So, the next time you raise a glass of drinking water to your lips, think about the millions of individual, sexually active women who flush their toilets five times a day and thereby contributed to the contents of your glass. If we ban cigarettes because of their health risk, certainly our liberal friends would want to ban hormonal contraceptives. Or is second-hand estrogen a cow too sacred to touch?
Many people have asked me if I can back up my absurd charge that synthetic estrogens from oral contraceptives are disrupting the environment.
Here's but a few of the hundreds of URLs that can be brought forward:
Note in the MSNBC piece that estrogens are said to be a “natural” part of sewage, but no one talks about how it gets in there.
This is an extremely well-known problem among experts in waste management. Sadly, most of us prefer to concentrate on the evils of big manufacturing plants rather than our own contributions through the use of hormonal birth control drugs.