The HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) scandal is bigger than most think. It's
not just about menopausal women, like me, getting bad information from their physicians
and the pharmaceutical industry for over 40 years, while the federal government
stood by and did nothing. The scandal is much bigger than that.
We're living in a world awash in hormones. Last March the USGS (United States
Geological Survey) reported that " pharmaceuticals, hormones, and other organic
wastewater-related chemicals have been detected at very low concentrations in
streams across the nation. Many of the chemicals examined (81 of 95) do not have
drinking-water standards or health advisories." Ironically, hormones do more damage
at low levels of exposure, than at high levels.
More disturbing news came from Great Britain. According to British scientists,
synthetic hormones from contraceptives and HRT are affecting the reproductive
organs of male fish. Male fish are developing female characteristics, including
reproductive organs. The five-year study of ten rivers in England by the Environment
Agency reported that 50% of male fish had developed eggs in their testes or female
reproductive ducts, 10% of the fish were sterile, and 25% were producing damaged
For the last 50 years researchers around the world have documented the growing
and insidious impact of hormones on people and the environment. Excessive exposure
to hormones, both synthetic and natural, are affecting every living thing - humans,
animals, fish, and even plants. Physicians are prescribing hormones to millions
of men, women, and children. Farmers are giving hormones to their livestock, including
farmed fish. Hormones are in our food and many of the products we use everyday.
Synthetic hormones, which interfere with our natural hormones, can leach out of
an endless variety of products: plastics, beauty and personal care products, household
cleaners, lawn and garden chemicals, dental sealants ... almost anything involving
Yet, few hormones have ever been thoroughly or independently tested for their
impact on public health and the environment. And the cumulative impact of many
different hormones - male and female, natural and synthetic - is not even being
considered for study by industry or government.
Cynthia Pearson, Executive Director of the National Women's Health Network,
isn't surprised. She says, “Pharmaceutical companies control what studies get
funded, who gets paid for doing them, where (and whether or not) those studies
are published, and how the studies are interpreted.”
The HRT study got launched mainly through the determined efforts of Dr. Bernadine
Healy, the National Institute of Health's first female director. But, insiders
say that, due to the hard ball lobbying tactics of the pharmaceutical industry,
the study was limited to only two hormones, estrogen and progestin. Already, the
industry is pushing alternative drug therapies that most assuredly have not gone
through the somewhat rigorous testing of the HRT study.
And contrary to media reports that blame women for the widespread use of HRT...
that accuse women of flocking to their doctors, clamoring to remain young forever,
demanding hormones …that was neither my experience nor the experience of women
I've talked with. Instead, it seems that most doctors made their female patients
feel like tree-hugging nut cases if they didn't go on HRT.
Now I, like many other menopausal mavens, am learning to minimize my symptoms
through simple changes in my diet – no thanks to our doctors. The mainstream medical
community is totally unprepared to do anything in concert with nature. They are
held hostage by the pharmaceutical industry. Under their current myopic approach
to treatment, the medical profession systemically violates its own ethic, first
"do no harm." It is now clear that "harm" is just what they've been doing through
the widespread use of poorly tested hormones.
And what is the extent of the “harm” done? Dr. Theo Colborn and her co-authors
of "Our Stolen Future" say that the known risks of over-exposure to synthetic
hormones are: lower sperm count, prostate problems, reproductive problems in women
(including miscarriages, tubal pregnancies, endometriosis, and breast cancer),
and effects on intelligence, behavior, development, and disease resistance. Some
health experts believe that human exposure to the Bovine Growth Hormone (BFH)
present in meat and dairy products could be at the heart of the current epidemic
As for which institution is most responsible for a world awash in hormones,
I blame the federal government for failure to do its duty - to protect public
health and the environment. Instead, they routinely give the green light to, if
not pave the way for, those in business who want to make the big bucks, no matter
who or what gets hurt. The HRT study was an exception to the rule. Now that menopausal
women know that we were lied to for at least 40 years, all I can say is...hell
hath no fury ...
Lynn Landes ( firstname.lastname@example.org
) is a freelance journalist specializing in environmental issues. She is a weekly
commentator on the BBC's Radio Five Live and reports environmental news for DUTV
in Philadelphia, PA (EcoTalk.org).
Lynn also hosts a website devoted to research on waste and toxics issues (ZeroWasteAmerica.org).
National Institute of Health's HRT website http://www.nih.gov/HRTindex.htm
Website for "Our Stolen Future" http://www.ourstolenfuture.org/
Diet for Menopause http://www.holistic-online.com/Remedies/hrt/hrt_food_diet.htm