Monday, September 10, 2012

Red Alert

A couple of months ago I wrote a post entitled Do It For the Grandkids discussing how epigenetic changes caused by chemical exposures can have effects that are transmitted for generations. I hadn't planned  to revisit the topic so soon, but the issue keeps coming to my attention in various ways, and it's important enough that I feel inclined to address it again.
An article entitled Red Alert for Humanity: Chemical Damage Can be Inherited by Offspring Through Unlimited Generations highlights a study in which exposure to a common fungicide caused neurological and behavioral changes that were passed on indefinitely. I don’t consider myself much of an alarmist by nature, but the “Red Alert” label does seem to fit. This is serious business. The article makes the following points:
  • People are being affected by chemicals to which they were never exposed. We are a product of our ancestors' exposures, and future generations will be affected by what we are encountering today.
  • The conventional wisdom has been that damaging effects of chemical exposures are limited to the generation that experienced them. This is proving not to be the case.
  • The transgenerational transference of the  effects of chemical exposures appears to continue indefinitely. The human genetic code is being permanently altered.
  • The study's lead researcher believes that cumulative effects of chemical toxins may be a key contributing factor to the rise of diseases and conditions like autism, obesity and infertility.
This study and many others link epigenetic changes not only to health, but to behavioral effects. When gene expression is altered by the environment, growth and activity of neurons in the brain can also be altered. This can, in turn, affect behavior. Some of the attributes that have been linked to epigenetic differences include impulsivity, risk-taking, disinhibition, anxiety levels, stress response, learning, attention, eating disorders, addiction risk, and memory. Failing to take the issue of chemical toxicity seriously can have wide-ranging and extremely long-lasting effects. The sirens are blaring and the red lights are flashing. Let's pay attention.

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