If you lived in rural China a few thousand years ago when traditional acupuncture was developing, or in rural England for that matter, there were probably a limited range of EPFs to worry you. One of the less fortunate side effects of technological progress, however, is that there are now many new kinds of harmful entities hanging about in the environment. I was lately reading the story of a woman in Billinge, near where I work in St Helens, who was out for a walk with her son near where she lived one day when she passed a few agricultural workers spraying the fields. Soon afterwards she became very ill, as did her son, and is convinced this was not a coincidence, although proving such is not so easy of course. However, there can be no doubt that many people’s health is injured by exposure to chemical pesticides; links have been found with many types of cancer(1) and some neurological problems(2) . And the factory in Bhopal in India where in 1984 leaks resulted in the deaths of about 3,000 people in the first 24 hours alone, to say nothing of longer term mortality and illness, was one involved in the manufacture of, you guessed it, pesticides.
Pesticides are of course just one example of potentially harmful agents which, nowadays, may be making us ill. If you are not careful about what you eat and drink, of course, you may be ingesting all kinds of things at meal times. The Fukeshima incident in Japan raises again the spectre of harmful radiation; is the nuclear industry as safe, long term, as it thinks it is? Male fertility may be declining in part because of the increased presence, in fast foods and packaging, of substances similar to oestrogen which may affect sperm counts. The list goes on, and if you start to think about it too much you will probably get depressed.
So what can we do? There is clearly not so much we can do in the short term about the air we are breathing, apart from giving a very wide berth to agricultural workers with spraying equipment, but we can at least be very clear about what we are eating and drinking, and what has been added to it. Beyond that, we can be less passive about what is happening around us. If we live in a world of pesticides, food additives and heaven knows what else, we can either choose to shrug out shoulders and bury our head in the (possibly contaminated) sand, or start to take some responsibility for the world we live in, and the world we are bequeathing to future generations. It used to be the case that ecology and health care were two more or less different things, but not anymore. What we, collectively do to the planet, we do to ourselves; if we poison the planet, we poison ourselves.
1. Gilden RC, Huffling K, Sattler B (January 2010). "Pesticides and health risks". J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs 39 (1): 103–10. doi:10.1111/j.1552-6909.2009.01092.x.PMID 20409108
2. Sanborn M, Kerr KJ, Sanin LH, Cole DC, Bassil KL, Vakil C (October 2007). "Non-cancer health effects of pesticides: systematic review and implications for family doctors". Can Fam Physician 53 (10): 1712–20. PMC 2231436. PMID 17934035