Theo Colborn, environmental health advocate and scientist [1927-2014]
In the online green / environmental circles I run around in, Theo Colborn’s passing was a big deal. A scientist and environmental health advocate, she herself was a big deal. And her work is meaningful to us all—no doubt even more critical to our children and the yet-to-be-born—in ways we probably won’t fully comprehend for years to come.
Listen to the latest Green Divas myEARTH360 Report to learn more about Theo Colburn, her work and her legacy as a pioneer in identifying endocrine disrupting chemicals and their impact on humans, animals and the environment.
Then read on and watch her TEDx Talk below to learn more…
Being 50 myself, I was inspired to learn that Theo went back to school at the age of 58 for her PhD. She did it so that she could “maybe undo some of the things that my generation basically foisted on society.” She was referring to the synthetic chemicals that humans have unleashed into our world.
Today there are around 80,000 chemicals that exist in food and consumer products, and 1,500 new synthetic chemicals are introduced into the marketplace every year. Most of these chemicals, both new and old, have not been tested for toxicological information. ~ EPA
Her breakthrough occurred while researching water quality in the Great Lakes. Synthetic chemicals were found at low levels and she found these yet-to-be-named endocrine disruptors were having an impact on animals’ development and reproduction.
In 1991, she and a team of 21 international scientists came up with the term for these chemicals: endocrine disruptors. She founded Endocrine Disruption Exchange, which funds research into endocrine disruption and its causes and has influenced an entire movement for safer chemicals.
We can thank Theo Colbern and her research for the BPA bans. BPA (bisphenol-A) has been identified as an endocrine disruptor and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found detectable levels of BPA in 93 percent of 2517 urine samples from people six years and older. According to the Center for Environmental Health, “BPA is estrogenic, meaning it can mimic the action of estrogen, a powerful hormone that controls sexual development, is important in conception and during pregnancy, and plays a role in the growth of some breast cancers.” Hopefully we’ll see more bans on endocrine disruptors in the near future.
A number of years ago, after reading some of the research about the endocrine disruptors on Theo’s computer, her college age grandson, said:
This is nothing more than industrial terrorism in the womb.
Watch Theo Colborn’s powerful TedX Talk…
Until the end of her life at 87 years of age, Theo worked on her statement, “The Overlooked Connection Between Human Health and Fossil Gases.” It’s worth reading. Here’s an excerpt:
Scientists have proven that human induced climate change and global warming are from burning fossil fuels and are seeking alternative energy sources. Adding to the urgency is the evidence from other scientists who have proven that humanity is facing a more imminent threat to survival because of the overlooked alternative uses of the fossil gases that surface during drilling for oiland gas. Methane and a group of semi-gaseous liquids called the aromatics are both separated from the raw gas on the well pads and enter separate pipelines. The aromatics, including benzene and toluene, are comprised of six carbon atoms attached in a circle called the benzene ring. Chemists use this carbon ring as the building block for the production of practically everything the infrastructure and economy of modern society is dependent upon.
Over the last 50 years as exposure to chemicals derived from fossil gases has increased so have the number of global pandemics attacking the human endocrine system. In the US alone, almost half the individuals born today will become diabetic and/or obese; one of every 88 babies born has autism spectrum disorder. For boys it’s one in 54. The cost of treatment and care for these problems along with infertility, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Disorders, and hormone driven cancers are in the trillions but are in-estimable because they are increasing so rapidly. All of these disorders have been traced back to prenatal, early life, and/or adult exposure to chemicals derived from these oil and gas condensates that interfere with the normal function of the endocrine system that assures species integrity and perpetuity. Before the 1930s these ailments were rare. Read more…
Thank you, Theo, for all you have done. Your work will live on, but I wish we would have had you as a guest on The Green Divas Show while you were still with us.
A tribute to Theo Colborn from the staff and board of The Endocrine Disruption Exchange
If you ever had the chance to meet her, even once, you knew Theo Colborn. She didn’t have a single hidden agenda. Her commitment to uncovering the truth was out there for the world to see.
For nearly 30 years she dedicated herself to revealing the dangers of endocrine disrupting chemicals to wildlife and humans. More recently she alerted us all to the threats posed by chemicals associated with oil and gas development. She wove the two together beautifully in her statement The Fossil Fuel Connection, which she worked on until the day she died.
Theo’s visionary leadership and passion shone most brilliantly when she made direct connections between new ideas, scientists whose work confirmed them, impacted individuals, and people in positions to change what needed changing. She will be remembered for many generations to come, generations that she worked tirelessly to protect.
Theo often feared that we had already passed the tipping point — that our intelligence and compassion had been so compromised by endocrine disruptors that we could no longer think our way out of the crises we had created.
As the living embodiment of her legacy, we at TEDX say,
No. It is not too late. There are people out there who ‘get it’ and who care — a lot of people — and we won’t let you down Theo.”
Donate to EndocrineDisruption.org to enable The Endocrine Disruption Exchange to continue their important work.
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