'F' is for fertility

Our self-inflicted toxins may just solve
overpopulation - the hard way.

by Robert Nanninga
o you remember when you were in school, long before the emergence of Punk Rock and there were those kids that walked around with green hair? This was far from a fashion statement. The discolored hair was a sure sign they were on the swim team, and spent a great deal of time in chlorinated pools. If the chlorine was strong enough to change their blond hair to green, what else was it doing to their systems?
Chemicals are everywhere. Humans can never get enough of the techno-stew we are constantly brewing for "a better tomorrow." We know that chlorine is used to help keep swimming pools clean, but did anybody consider the possibility that very same chlorine might effect swimmers - and future generations - in the process?
Recently, researchers in France discovered chlorinated chemicals like those found in pesticides and dry-cleaning fluids have the ability to mimic the female hormone estrogen. It is suspected that during pregnancy such chemicals with estrogen-like properties may have a harmful effect on the developing male fetus.
Now I know you are all saying, "I don't drink that much Clorox." Think again. For years, American tap water has been treated with chlorine, to eradicate all the little beasties Mother Nature has provided. Every time you drink from the faucet you're ingesting a small dose of poison, put there to protect your health.
What amazes me is the amount of chlorine that we are subjected to. Most commercial cleaning products don't include ingredients on the label, and those that do list things like Chlorinol in Comet and the dimethyl ethylbenzyl ammonium chlorides in Dow Bathroom Cleaner. Yes, those adorable Scrubbing Bubbles are toxic, all the way to the sea.
It seems we have trusted the government to protect us from the huge chemical interests. We forget that these international chemical corporations have clout that goes a long way, not to mention the lobbyists and consultants that are working Washington right now.
It is staggering to consider the amount of chemicals our species pumps into the environment every day. Not long ago, I was in the wedding party of a friend in Mansfield, Ohio. As we drove into town, I commented that all the roads were torn up. The groom informed me that the town's ground water supply had been contaminated with chemical solvents and wastewater illegally dumped by the local dry-cleaner. City workers were laying pipes to bring water from outside the contaminated area. PERC, the most widely used dry-cleaning solvent is a proven carcinogen, and is regulated by the EPA and the Health Department. Does the clothing industry realize this when they label clothes "dry-clean only?" I don't know about you, but the fact that every strip mall in Southern California has a dry cleaner does not sit well with me. That's a lot of cancer looking for a place to happen.
To review so far, we use poison to clean the water, and carcinogens to clean our clothes. Boy aren't we the intelligent species?
Another way we assault the environment is via paper production. If paper is white, it's safe to say it has been bleached. That includes paper towels, tissue, notebooks, letterhead and squeezably soft Charmin. Since most paper mills are located on riverbanks, you can guess where the run-off winds up.
Pesticides are another way we try to clean the planet. Deciding that bugs are bad, we coat crops with enough chemicals to kill everything biological in sight. The only problem is: the bugs soon adapt, the birds eat the bugs, the fish live downstream of agriculture, and mammals that eat higher on the food chain are in the cycle of exposure to these chemicals.
Take bats, for instance. Twenty years ago, 11 million Mexican free-tailed bats resided in the Carlsbad Caverns of New Mexico. These mammals feed on swarms of mosquitoes and other insects. Now, just 200,000 live there, their numbers slashed by pesticide use in nearby valleys. Less bats, more bugs. To make sure insects don't eat crops we spray them with poison, because we all know bugs cut into a farmer's profits. Kind of a Catch-22.
Once harvested, these crops are fed to consumers. Sure, people are admonished to wash produce thoroughly before eating. However, it doesn't make much sense to wash toxins off vegetables with chlorine tainted water, does it? The beef people eat is fed grains grown with pesticides. Eventually, no matter how you look at it, the poisons we introduce all end up at the top of the food chain.
Granted, people may not be dropping dead like bats. Ours is a more insidious fate. Slowly but surely we are rendering ourselves infertile. The problem, some researchers contend, is not limited to declining sperm counts and fertility. These scientists believe there is also a related increase in other male problems, including testicular cancer, undescended testicles and other physical abnormalities of the male genitals. It won't be much longer before the "treatment" of overpopulation becomes nothing more than a cruel joke.
Well, all I can say is, enjoy your sperm while you've got them. The chemicals we can't live without, are trimming the family tree.

Robert Nanninga is an independent video producer, actor, vegan and active member of the Green and environmental community.