중앙데일리

Measures Needed to Check Environmental Hormone Threat

Sept 06,2000
Shocking examples of the disastrous effects of environmental hormones have been found in Korea. A recent Ministry of Environment study reported that these hormones already contaminate Korea‘s air, water, and soil. They have also, alarmingly, effected alterations of sexual organs in aquatic animals. Concerns about these hormones have been confirmed; they are now endangering Korean ecosystems.

The study, conducted in 31 places nationwide, found that sex changes in aquatic life have occurred in Kangwon and South Kyongsang Provinces. These frogs and fish are well into the beginning stage of sexual transmogrifications; they have both male and female sex organs. Dioxin levels found in the air, moreover, are higher in some areas than in Japan, where levels of such harmful chemicals are notoriously high. Although Korea’s water and soil are not presently in a worrisome state, scientists foresee that hormonal pollutants there will soon reach dangerous levels as well.

The disturbance in the balance of the ecosystems is but a signal heralding future disasters of terrifying magnitude. In the long run, environmental hormones could cause the extinction of the human race.

Studies in France show that such hormones are responsible for drastically decreasing human sperm counts. Men born in 1945 had average sperm counts of 120 million per 1 milliliter of semen at the age of 30; those born in 1962, however, had only 51 million at the same age. If the pattern continues and the sperm count drops to below 20 million, natural reproduction will be difficult. The human race is in danger.

Environmental hormones inflict other damage; they cause birth defects, weakened immune systems,and cancer. They are suspected by some researchers to induce homosexual traits in humans. These hormones, consequently, are considered one of the three major environmental problems the world faces, along with the shrinking ozone layer and global warming.

The government must establish measures to control environmental hormones. Hasty actions that cause a lot of commotion are not in order; it is more prudent to proceed slowly and steadily. It is necessary to set up a comprehensive, systematic research framework to study how these hormones are composed, emitted, and then absorbed by the human body.

On a more realistic front, known environmental hormones should be kept below safe levels. At present, Korea has regulations on only 42 of the 67 such hormones classified by the World Wildlife Fund, 16 of which are deemed irrelevant in Korea. Studies must be done on the nine others, some of which are used as a coating material for soft drink cans and in the manufacturing of plastics, to determine whether it is necessary to put them on the list to be monitored. Ultimately, it will be necessary to enact stringent regulations and allot adequate budgets to prevent this enormous potential disaster.

by Lee Chang-kyu




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