Humans and wildlife alike are vulnerable to certain man-made chemicals. CHEM Trust aims to make the links between chemicals and disease in both humans and wildlife more widely understood. Working with research scientists, the medical community and sufferers’ groups, CHEM Trust will strive to achieve improved health policies and better chemicals legislation leading to long-term improvement in environmental, wildlife and human health.
Ecosystems all over the world are now contaminated with a cocktail of man-made chemicals.
The most worrying man-made chemicals are those that are:
- ‘Persistent’ chemicals because they do not break down in the environment
- ‘Bioaccumulative’ chemicals because they build up in our bodies and
- ‘Hormone disrupting’ chemicals – also called endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and sometimes ‘gender benders’.
Studies have shown the adverse impacts of man-made chemicals on wildlife species. Now scientific evidence is growing about the possible links between certain chemicals, particularly hormone disrupting chemicals (or EDCs), and human health impacts such as cancer, reproductive problems, birth defects, asthma, allergies, behavioural problems, disruption of infant brain development, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity.
Humans are exposed to both industrial man-made chemicals and pesticides, through the food chain and from the vast array of consumer products in society. Wildlife, too, are exposed to the same chemicals via, for example, factory discharges, sewage effluents, leaking landfills and pesticides sprayed on the land.
Concern about the effects of man-made chemicals in humans, such as the decline in sperm counts, and the increases in certain diseases like some cancers, should lead to a more precautionary regulation of chemicals.
Without the work of CHEM Trust, knowledge of the potential role of chemicals in adverse effects on wildlife and human health will not be widely communicated. It will remain only with a few scientists working at the cutting edge of research. This will condemn generations of children to continued exposure to man-made chemicals in the womb, several of which may pose a threat to their future ability to reproduce or reach their full potential.
Without our work the chemical threat to biodiversity, and the early warning signals provided by wildlife will go un-noticed.
And without CHEM Trust, the public will remain unaware that, even in what should be pristine habitats, animals are contaminated and showing abnormalities and that worrying chemicals are in so many consumer products.
The History of the Concern about Chemicals
In the early 1990s concern about the effects of chemicals escalated as research showed that many man-made substances, called endocrine disruptors or EDCs, could mimic or disrupt the action of hormones. In 1991, Theo Colborn, scientific researcher and co-author of Our Stolen Future, gathered a group of scientists together, and in 1992 the famous Wingspread consensus statement on hormone disruptors was published. This alerted the world with its prediction that “Unless the environmental load of synthetic hormone disruptors is abated and controlled, large scale dysfunction at the population level is possible”.
These scientists listed many wildlife populations that were already affected by hormone disruptors, and that the impacts included:
- thyroid dysfunction in birds and fish;
- decreased fertility in birds, fish, shellfish and mammals;
- decreased hatching success in birds, fish and turtles;
- gross birth deformities in birds, fish and turtles;
- metabolic abnormalities in birds, fish and mammals;
- behavioural abnormalities in birds;
- de-masculinisation and feminisation of male fish, birds and mammals;
- de-feminisation and masculinisation of female fish and birds;
- compromised immune systems in birds and mammals.
- The connection between effects in wildlife and the likely effects humans were also noted.
In the early days, industry appeared to try and play down the issue. Now the concern of the public and of scientists working in the field is ever increasing.
In 2007, in recognition of the growing concerns about the environment, wildlife and human health impacts, CHEM Trust (Chemicals Health and Environment Monitoring Trust) was set up – to protect both wildlife and humans from harmful chemicals.