Dangerously Awash in Chemicals

 Man-made chemicals have exceeded the limits of safety for the planet. This statement comes from the first-ever major scientific warning based upon a study of the dangers posed by the flood of chemicals across the globe as three hundred fifty thousand (350,000) chemicals slosh throughout the planet.

“We have overwhelming evidence of negative impacts on Earth systems, including biodiversity and biogeochemical cycles,” according to Bethanie Carney Almroth, University of Gothenburg. 1

According to Bethanie Carney Almroth: “The impacts that we’re starting to see today are large enough to be impacting crucial functions of planet Earth and its systems,”2

It is of utmost concern that the evidence of harm to the planet is based upon partial information because so little is known about the ingredients and manufacturing and toxicity of the mass of chemicals. Indeed, there’s heightened reason for concern because “what is known” is more than enough to draw “alarming conclusions,” even though the great mass is not thoroughly understood, yet.

Most of the 350,000 chemicals have been developed over the past 70 years. Thus, impact on the planet is only starting to become obvious. Yet, analyzing only “what is known” the scientists are already saying; “Enough is enough… Maybe we have to put a cap on production.” In fact, they’ve gone so far as to recommend: “Caps on production are urgently needed,” Ibid.

Across the board, chemicals negatively affect already stressed ecosystems. Pesticides kill living organisms that are absolutely crucial to ongoing life-giving ecosystems, interfere with hormones, disrupt growth and metabolism, as well as reproductive cycles of all vertebrates as well as invertebrates.

This rapidly evolving understanding of the dangers of chemicals is similar to the conundrum surrounding greenhouse gas emissions, but there is a marked difference in scale, as worldwide chemicals are found six times more prevalent than greenhouse gas emissions. That’s an enormous difference in absolute numbers.

Yet, there is no chemical advocacy group analogue to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). There is no NGO advocating chemical testing. Meanwhile, testing for toxicity is spotty and almost totally lacking in effectiveness and mostly confined to industry self-regulation. Not-for-profits are not rallying the public to investigate chemical toxicity of ecosystems. No placards, no rallies, no parking lot signature gatherings, no TV commentaries, no editorials, no marches, no extinction rebellion groups, no denier groups, in fact, not much critical information is found anywhere about the dangers behind this massive flooding of chemicals all across the globe. It is like an isolated event but yet gargantuan in breadth and destructiveness, as humanity poisons itself.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), two million people or 5,500 per day died in 2019 due to unintentional exposure to hazardous chemicals. Chemicals are a bigger killer than wars; e.g., the First and Second World Wars averaged roughly 100 and 200 fatalities per day but wars do end, whereas the universe of chemicals increases by 1,000 new chemicals per year as roughly 5,500 unintentional deaths per day continue, saying nothing about the hidden ongoing damage to the integrity of ecosystems across the globe as chemicals slowly work away at damage to life-sourcing ecosystems, for example, killing soil, turning it into dirt.

A landmark study identified the killer of nature’s greatest achievement of all time, which is soil. Based upon the research, the culprit or soil killer is agricultural pesticide, as explained: “Study after study indicates the unchecked use of pesticides across hundreds of millions of acres each year is poisoning the organisms critical to maintaining healthy soils.” Furthermore: “Yet our regulators have been ignoring the harm to these important ecosystems for decades.”  3

Earth and all life on it are being saturated with chemicals released by humans, in an event unlike anything that has occurred ever before, in all 4 billion years of our Planet’s story… Ours is a poisoned world… this has all happened quite quickly and has burgeoned so rapidly that most people are still unaware of the extent or scale of the peril… crept up on us unseen… in a social climate of trusting acceptance of authority, over barely the span of a single human lifetime… impacts are only now starting to emerge. 4

Switzerland’s Institute of Environmental Engineering, led by a team of international scientists, conducted a comprehensive study of the extent of chemicals, surprisingly finding 3xs more chemicals extant than previously estimated or 350,000 chemicals and mixtures of chemicals with many identities publicly unknown, claimed as “confidential.”

The Swiss study uncovered widespread secrecy, misidentification, and obfuscation about mixtures, ultimately leading to questions of whom effectively monitors the darkened world that ultimately reaches into every household of the planet. After all, the chemical industry is the second largest manufacturer in the world, totaling 2.5 billion tons per year.

According to Cribb’s book Earth Detox:

Regulation has so far banned fewer than one per cent (1%) of all intentionally made dangerous chemicals – and then only in certain countries… large parts of the world’s most polluting industries are relocating away from countries where high standards of regulation and compliance, and high costs, apply. (pp. 191-92).

The modern industrial food supply chain, from A to Z, is loaded with chemicals. For starters, pesticides used to grow food and livestock end up in human bodies one way or another, and in high enough concentrations proven to influence cancers, brain, nerve, genetic and hormonal disorders, kidney and liver damage, asthma and allergies. Besides pesticides, some 3,000 chemical food ingredients are permitted by the FDA used to enhance freshness, taste, and texture. Preservatives, for example, which extend shelf life, are chemicals that poison the bacteria and moulds that cause food to rot.

Common chemical preservatives such as sodium nitrate and nitrite, sulphites, sulphur dioxide, sodium benzoate, parabens, formaldehyde and antioxidant preservatives, if over-consumed in the modern processed food diet, may also lead to cancers, heart disease, allergies, digestive, lung, kidney and other diseases and constitute a further reason for avoiding or reducing one’s intake of ‘industrial food’. 5

Interestingly, Europe only permits the use of 400 food additives out of 3000 permitted in the US. Essentially, Europe has banned 4/5ths of the chemicals allowed in the US food chain. Europe outlaws any chemicals that do not meet its criteria for “non-harm to humans or the environment.” (Ibid, p. 73)

Do not buy packaged food if you cannot pronounce the ingredients listed on the label, and if you can pronounce them, you must’ve aced chemistry in school.

Dr. Stephanie Seneff has studied the influence of the most prevalent chemical in the world: Toxic Legacy, How the Weedkiller Glyphosate is Destroying Our Health and the Environment, subtitled: One Scientist’s Determined Quest to Reveal the Truth, Chelsea Green Publishing, 2021.

Something terrible seems to be affecting every living thing on the planet — the insects, the animals, and the health of human beings, including children. Something hiding in plain sight. While we can’t reduce all environmental and health problems to one insidious thing, I believe there is a common denominator. The common denominator is glyphosate.” 6

The kingpin of chemicals is glyphosate, which is the primary ingredient in herbicides used throughout the world, like Roundup, AquaMaster, Aqua Neat, Polado, Accord, Rodeo, Touchdown, Backdraft, Expedite, EZ Jet, Glyfos, Laredo, Buccaneer Plus, and Wrangler among many others.

Postscript:

Someday we shall look back on this dark era of agriculture and shake our heads. How could we have ever believed that it was a good idea to grow our food with poisons? 7

  1. Marc Préel, “Plastic, Chemical Pollution beyond Planet’s Safe Limit: Study”, Phys.org, February 15, 2022, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University. []
  2. Ibid. []
  3. Tari Gunstone, et al, “Pesticides and Soil Invertebrates: A Hazard Assessment,” Frontiers in Environmental Science, May 4, 2021, []
  4. Julian Cribb: “Earth Detox, How and Why We Must Clean Up Our Planet“, Cambridge University Press, August 2021, pp. 3-4. []
  5. Earth Detox, p. 70. []
  6. Seneff []
  7. Jane Goodall, Harvest of Hope, 2005. []
Robert Hunziker (MA, economic history, DePaul University) is a freelance writer and environmental journalist whose articles have been translated into foreign languages and appeared in over 50 journals, magazines, and sites worldwide. He can be contacted at: rlhunziker@gmail.com. Read other articles by Robert.