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Are synthetic chemicals altering the fabric of our bodies?


It’s certainly worth reflecting on:

It’s fair to say that PCBs and fluorocarbons have altered the biochemical composition of the food web and the interior of the human body, and in the case of the PFASs, the water we drink. (Some PFASs can even fall with rain.) These have been swift, sweeping changes over the course of just three or four generations, too quick for the slow-grinding machinery of human evolution to adapt. And yet, PCBs and PFASs are now an integral part of the human story. They pass from species to species, from mother to child. They are present from conception to death, and consumed with daily meals and holy feasts. The presence of PCBs alone shapes how humankind reproduces itself, how our young develop, and even whether subsequent generations will be susceptible to certain cancers or resilient against disease. Pam Weintraub, “Time-bombing the future” at Aeon

If that’s so, then researchers who are advancing claims about recent evolution will need to consider these possible effects.

See also: Can Cities Serve As Cauldrons Of Evolution (Speciation)?


Smithsonian: We Really Don’t Know Why Humans Don’t Have Fur

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These issues are not limited to synthetic chemicals. Things like lead and mercury have a known and definite affect in how humans develop and behave. A correlation that I always find amusing (probably not causal) is haw well the reduction in violence tracked with the phase-out of leaded gasoline. But there are also some compounds that are found in some plastics that have a "gender-bending" effect, mimicking female hormones. Personal care products are also of concern. Our modern sewage plants are only designed to remove four things, solids, phosphorus (and sometimes ammonia), readily degradable organics and some pathogens. Almost everything else just flows right through, including the hormones and pharmaceuticals that we excrete. I once was at a talk by a researcher who was examining female hormone levels in treatment plant effluents. He showed bar charts that compared various communities. In general they were all similar in hormone levels with the exception of one, which was higher by a large margin. It turns out that this location was a university town who's population was dominated by the students, half of which were young women, many of them on birth control pills. Ed George

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