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100_year_lie_2 What are we doing to ourselves?

Over the past one hundred years our species has been engaged in a vast and complicated chemistry experiment. Each and every one of us, along with our  children, our parents and our grandparents, have been a guinea pig in this experiment that uses our bodies, our health, our wealth and our good will to test the proposition that modern science can improve upon the foods and medicines of Nature.

Despite our culture’s remarkable sophistication in medical technology that keeps the seriously ill alive and extends lifespans, our overall health condition has degenerated alarmingly and rapidly. Over the past 100 years our cancer mortality has gone from 3 percent of all deaths to 20 percent of all deaths. Our incidence of diabetes went from one-tenth of one percent of the population to almost 20 percent. Heart disease went from being almost non-existent to killing more than 700,000 people a year. At the same time, health care costs have risen until the U.S. now spends twice as much on medicine and care per person per year than any other industrialized nation in the world.

It’s no coincidence that simultaneous with this health decline the perils we face from our food, our medicine and our health choices have become a drumbeat of alarming news reports. Here are a few representative examples.

A study from the science journal, Public Health, described in 2004 how   the incidence of death from brain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and   motor neurone disorders, was found to have tripled in nine Western countries, including   the U.S., during the period 1974 to 1997. The most likely causes researchers  identified   were exposure to pesticides sprayed on crops, synthetic chemicals from the processed   foods that we consume, and industrial chemicals used in almost every aspect of our   modern lives.

Food seemed to be a major culprit for this toxicity because Japan, alone among the ten countries studied, experienced no increase in brain disease mortality, apparently a result of the Japanese diet being healthier than Western diets. Only when Japanese citizens relocate to Western countries and consume those processed foods do their disease rates exceed that of Japan as a whole.

In California, state environmental officials discovered that 60 percent of the rivers and streams contained high levels of prozac, ritalin, and antibiotics. How could such contamination possibly have happened? Because people had dumped their excess prescription drugs into those bodies of water, or had flushed them directly, or through bodily waste, into sewer and septic systems where the chemicals then leached into ground water.

Blood testing of thousands of Americans has widened the scope of concern. Medical researchers at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York found an average of 91 industrial compounds, pollutants, and other synthetic chemicals in the blood and urine of nine volunteers who had no occupational or geographical connection to these chemicals or where they are manufactured. More than half of these chemicals are known to be responsible for birth defects, or cancer, or brain and nervous system disorders in humans.

An even more extensive round of testing by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, involving 2,400 adults and children, documented more than 200 synthetic chemical toxins in their bodies, with hundreds more chemicals suspected to be present.

How did we become so toxic? What thrust us as a culture and as individuals onto this slippery slope? How can we navigate our way back to a healthier and less toxic future? These are some of the questions raised and answered in The Hundred Year Lie.

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