What is enough: 80,000 chemicals? 83,000 chemicals?

Ravi Nadu is concerned about the more than 80,00 man-made chemicals that now circulate around the Earth. This is over and above the sanctioned  role of Monsanto contaminants as shown in battles such as the current attempt to introduce GMO alfalfa (http://oapf.saskorganic.com/) and the destructive introduction of GMO canola such that Canadian farmers cannot longer grow organic canola.

The complexity of the introduction of all these chemicals and combinations of chemicals into the world ecosystem is what concerns Nadu and should concern us. We do not understand what is going on nor do we have any kind of overview.

porkers in forest

CRC Care is funded through the Australian Government. 

  • Originally funded for a seven-year term, in 2010 CRC CARE applied for and received an additional nine years of funding through the CRC Program. CRC CARE’s second term commenced on 1 July 2011, having been granted $29 million federal funding in addition to partner contributions. This second term will take CRC CARE through to 2020.
  • CRC CARE’s approach brings together Australian universities with state and Commonwealth agencies and regulatory authorities, mining, petroleum and agricultural industries, venture capitalists, environment consultants and suppliers to work collaboratively on vital contamination issues and sites in Australia and the region. The strength of CRC CARE is in this collaborative approach with industry and government.

The development of an increasingly integrated global economy, one that has seen the increase of free trade, free flow of capital, and which has tapped cheaper foreign labor markets has offered huge potential profits for businesses and even nations. But it could come at a significant cost. With the rise of a global economy, or globalization, comes the rise of the risk of global contamination.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has long noted contaminated water remains a problem, with around 1.1 billion people globally who do not have access to improved water supply sources, while some 2.4 billion people have no access to any type of improved sanitation facility.

Yet water is just one part of the reported problem.

According to the CRC for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment (CRC CARE) noted some 83,000 man-made chemicals now circulate around the Earth. These are in the water, soil, air, wildlife, food and even in manufactured goods. The chemicals are even in people.

All this poses a potential hazard to human and environmental health, according to Professor Ravi Naidu at the University of South Australia (UNISA). Naidu, who has been a research scientist in the fields of environmental contaminants, toxicology, bioavailability and remediation for over 20 years, recently returned from the United States where he was admitted as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for “efforts on behalf of the advancement of science or its applications [which] are scientifically or socially distinguished.”

He was also awarded the Soil Science Society of America’s prestigious 2012 International Soil Science Award last December.

On Monday CRC CARE announced Australia is prepared to take a world lead in actually investigating this earth system contamination, with an emphasis on soil contagions.

Naidu said the universal nature of chemical contamination is only now being appreciated by science, and as such, remains an issue largely unfamiliar to society as a whole.

“When people think of the impact of human activity on global systems, they tend to think mainly of greenhouse gases, urban air pollution or nutrient pollution of water bodies – but in fact there is a far wider array of toxic substances now in the Earth system circulation,” Naidu said in a statement. “Individually, and as chemical mixtures, these pose real risks to human health. Current studies, such as those by America’s Centers for Disease Control, have shown that most humans are now, to some degree, contaminated by industrial chemicals.”

Naidu added recent research in the US, Europe and China has suggested many babies are now born contaminated, whereby mothers could be unknowingly passing man-made carcinogens and other toxins to their babies through breastfeeding.

These contagions are not just being found in the developed or highly industrialized world, but are being found almost everywhere – from the deep oceans to the most remote islands. Naidu suggests traces of man-made chemicals, many of which could be linked to or suspected of causing cancer and other diseases, are simply put everywhere.

“The water beneath most of our great cities is so contaminated it is often undrinkable,” he added. “Pesticides and ‘gender-bender’ compounds are now quite commonly found in the food chain and public water supplies. There is rising awareness of the global distribution of nanomaterials in the environment – and a major scientific effort will be needed to understand and monitor this development worldwide.”

The concern over water has been so great that last November the WHO held a Water Safety Conference in Kampala, Uganda.

Of greater concern is while there have been great strides in anti-pollution laws, in many cases chemicals released in poorly-regulated countries can make their way back to other countries. Most notably, Chinese studies show toxic electronic waste – or eWaste – that is generated in Europe or the United States, can travel to China for unregulated reprocessing. From this it could go back to reach consumers in other parts of the world through foods produced in the contaminated soil or water in China, and, most worrisome, this can occur in only a matter of months.

Now Prof. Naidu noted  Australia is prepared to take a world lead in addressing this issue of Earth system contamination. Naidu will lead efforts to propose a Global Contamination Research Initiative (GCRI) to investigate it, at a major international conference hosted by CRC CARE in Melbourne in September.

“The first step in protecting our own health and that of all living species, is to understand what is really going on globally – and to do that we need a worldwide team of the best scientists in the field,” he added. “The GCRI is envisioned as a global scientific partnership that will bring an international focus to an issue which affects all people, everywhere, but has largely gone under the radar.”


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