Volume 18, Number 2 .... May 1996


Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

Last column, I sort-of promised that I wouldn't write about estrogen mimics, xenoestrogens, endocrine disrupters, Aroclor, bisphenol A, or Triton X-100 for a while. I lied.

Things change. The world changes. Books are written, sometimes even read.

I am reading Our Stolen Future (which bears the somewhat longer subtitle "Are we Threatening Our Fertility, Intelligence, and Survival?--A Scientific Detective Story"), written by Theo Colborn, Diane Dumanoski, and John Peterson Myers and is published by Dutton, 1996, $24.95 hardback.

I quoted Dr. Theo Colborn in one of my earlier articles (Volume 17, no. 1, January 1995) on the subject of endocrine-disrupting chemicals. She is the senior scientist with the World Wildlife Fund and is the person responsible for connecting the dots. That is, she discerned the common theme in many seemingly unrelated environmental problems. She also organized the first international symposium on the subject of endocrine disrupters, the 1991 Wingspread conference.

As I write, I have only read about half of the book. Anyone interested in the topic should definitely give it a read.

Our Stolen Future contains a lot of information and it is clearly laid out. The book also fails in a few areas. The "Since this is still an unfolding mystery, it is told as a detective story..." strategy doesn't work that well. The chapter chronicling the travels of a PCB molecule from factory to polar bear breast milk is not only weak in concept, but seems full of technical errors with regard to physical chemistry.

The other event that compelled me to revisit this topic was a letter from a friend. A friend to whom I had sent previous columns. A friend who has had testicular cancer. A friend who is, thankfully, fine now.

He wrote that men, and in light of the most recent research on endocrine-disrupting chemicals, perhaps conservators in particular, should learn to check themselves for any sign of change in the shape or size of their testicles. They should also pay attention to persistent or reoccurring pain. And most importantly, if one of the above does occur, they should immediately see a physician.

His own experience is probably typical. Even after he noted a significant change, he writes: "I waited some time, wondering, hoping it was nothing. Maybe that's why I had to have chemotherapy after the operation. (Let's say the cure is worse than the ailment, but necessary!) Why did I wait? Because I really didn't know anything about these problems, had a degree of fear about my nuts, and therefore hoped the pain would go away."

"The point is men should know how to check themselves and see a doctor without hesitation. Testicular cancer, even if it has spread, is curable but the earlier, the better. Apparently we have two balls as a precaution because nothing changes sexually with the loss of one."

Implicit in the above is that female conservators should perform regular breast self examinations and get regular gynecological examinations.

And about Triton X-100. I may have gotten a bit carried away. I know of no evidence that the Triton itself is an estrogen mimic, only that its breakdown product, octylphenol is. That having been said, I still recommend discontinuing its use and would also still point out that Triton X-100 is listed in the Merck Index as a spermatocide.

Chris Stavroudis is a conservator in private practice.

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