An EPA Gut Renovation
A few years ago, a deluge of neurological, gastrointestinal, ophthalmological, and dermatological symptoms presented in my body. Numerous doctors dismissed me as an anxious hypochondriac. Several medicated me, but none found anything clearly wrong in my labs or brain scans. Finally, I realized that my issues stemmed from gut dysbiosis and intestinal permeability. I began a long road to functional healing and issued endless apologies to my microbiome.
I believe Roundup and other pesticides are at the core of the chronic illness epidemic.
In the depths of my medical mystery, a therapist recommended Full Catastrophe Living, a book that seeks to give coping tools to those who get fixated on worst-case scenarios. In my case, I actually was slowly dying and no one in the medical profession believed me. And how super annoying that I was told to go home and read a mindfulness book amidst my crisis.
Despite my annoyance at being unfairly labelled a catastrophizer, I did find a reframing tool that I continue to use on a regular basis.
When presented with a stressful, difficult situation, I assess: “What is the worst thing that could happen?” It reframes the whole predicament. Aside from death or debilitating illness, humans can recover excellently from most worst-case scenarios. We are hearty, flexible beings.
What doesn’t work:
I simply can’t come up with a scenario in which we can possibly continue spraying toxins at the rate we do now, and simultaneously emerge a prolific and undamaged species. The very worst thing that could happen is already happening. It isn’t catastrophic thinking – it’s our reality.
It is NOT catastrophizing to claim that if we are to survive as a species, the EPA is in desperate need of a gut renovation, down to the studs. Private litigation is increasingly holding chemical companies at bay, while a handful of independent scientists, doctors, and economists design a fresh set of blueprints for a modernized regulatory process.
In a new paper: Commentary: Novel Strategies and New Tools to Curtail the Health Effects of Pesticides, nine of these dynamic minds from the Heartland Health Research Alliance have elucidated the barriers that currently stand in the way of appropriately assessing the health impact of pesticides. They offer four key solutions to the current problems in pesticide risk management and assessment.
1) End reliance in regulatory decision making on studies provided by industry, and instead rely more heavily on independent science. And, by the way, the manufacturers should pick up the tab for these independent studies through fees to the public agencies.
2) Regulators should more heavily weigh mechanistic data and prioritize low-dose exposure studies, because that is how most of the population is actually exposed to the chemicals on a daily basis.
3) Improve the measurement of concentrations of chemicals in bodily fluids and tissues, particularly in the case of pesticide applicators, pregnant women, and children. Remember the glyphosate found in my daughter’s baby tooth?
4) Utilize new scientific tools available to improve risk assessment, including new genetic and metabolic markers of adverse health impacts. What is the point of scientific progress if no one will bother paying attention to it? When we presented research on glyphosate’s impact on the microbiome, the EPA’s Office of Pesticides didn’t know what to do with it.
There is an abundance of riches packed in the pages of this paper. Two points in particular stand out to me.
FORMULATION FAUX PAUX
The authors stress that a significant obstacle to accurate health impact assessment comes from the EPA’s refusal to consider the formulated pesticide product, instead choosing to assess solely the declared “active” ingredient. In the example of Roundup, glyphosate is the tested active ingredient, even though the secret mix of glyphosate with other potent co-formulants makes Roundup more toxic than just glyphosate alone. The surfactant POEA is a known key ingredient in Roundup that has been banned in Europe for its toxicity. The formulation has also been shown to include arsenic among other concerning heavy metals.
The paper states: “US and EU law allows pesticide registrants to claim that the formula of commercial products are confidential business information.” What is especially remarkable is that in his deposition, Michael Koch, the head of the Product Safety Center at Monsanto, didn’t know exactly what was in Roundup. If even Monsanto doesn’t know what we are spraying, absorbing, and eating, why the heck is it the most used herbicide of all time?
There is a critical need for Congress to change FIFRA to require the disclosure of ALL ingredients in formulated products, and to test formulated products for long-term health risks.
ON BEHALF OF THE CHEMICALLY SENSITIVE
My body has a low threshold for reacting negatively to chemical exposures. If someone is going to be the canary in a coal mine for negative health effects from a given chemical, I’m a likely feathery candidate.
I’m heartened to see the paper recognize that “a variety of genetic polymorphisms, health conditions, and drug therapies render segments of the population more vulnerable following exposure to certain pesticides.” Furthermore, “malnutrition and vitamin deficiency can enhance the toxic effects of some pesticides.”
When pesticides are used on our food and soil, the nutrients available to the plant and the eater are limited. So now, a person is not only becoming malnourished because of lack of nutrients in the pesticide-sprayed food itself, but is also at greater risk of negative health outcomes following pesticide exposure. It’s a double blow.
If an asteroid were on track to hit the earth, and could send all of us the way of the dinosaurs, governments would frantically innovate to save us from this catastrophe. In the case of the pandemic, the world stopped for a year to mitigate illness.
The slow, gradual damage inflicted from our environmental exposures, however, makes the harm from chemical companies and lax regulators much more difficult for the general population to notice. It’s a catastrophe on the DL.
This paper should be placed on the very top of EPA Administrator Michael Regan’s must-read pile. A full modernization of the science used to assess chemicals, and a willingness to test all of the ingredients in formulated products, would do a great deal to slow the progression of disease driven by chemical exposure.
Let’s give it a go – what’s the worst that could happen?