Women are uniquely susceptible to pesticides and lead, leading to such seemingly unrelated medical problems as cancer and chronic fatigue syndrome according to testimony at a recent seminar of the Washington, D.C.-based Society for the Advancement of Women’s Health Research.
Chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), organochlorines (DDT), dioxin and other industrial by-products all have estrogen-like activity, announced Kenneth Olden, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and NIEHS scientific director John McLachlan.
These toxins replace natural estrogen in tissue, where they influence cellular function over decades. Target sites include bones, brain, cardiovascular system, liver, skin, uterus, and vagina. Diseases impacted by estrogen include breast and uterine diseases such as endometriosis, fibroid tumors, PMS, infertility, and lactation suppression.
Ellen Silbergeld, University of Maryland epidemiologist and toxicologist for the Environmental Defense Fund, reported that 90% of lead settles in bones and is handled similarly to calcium. This means that during pregnancy and lactation, lead along with calcium migrates from the bone into the blood, brain and kidneys of the woman and her baby. During menopause, remobilization of lead reoccurs. She said, “In postmenopausal women, compared to premenopausal women, there is about a 22% increase in blood lead level,” again putting the women at risk of lead’s neurotoxic effects.
Abridged from a Washington Post article by Sandy Rovner reprinted in the August 19. 1993 Boulder Daily Camera.