24 Nov 2010: Interview

A Warning by Key Researcher
On Risks of BPA in Our Lives

The synthetic chemical, BPA — found in everything from plastic bottles to cash register receipts — is a potent, estrogen-mimicking compound. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, biologist Frederick vom Saal harshly criticizes U.S. corporations and government regulators for covering up — or ignoring — the many health risks of BPA.

by elizabeth kolbert

The chemical Bisphenol A, or BPA, has been much in the news lately. BPA is the building block for polycarbonate plastic — the sort of hard, clear plastic often used in water bottles — and it is found in everything from linings of metal cans, to the thermal paper used for cash register receipts, to the dental sealants applied to children’s teeth. The chemical mimics estrogen, and in studies involving lab animals, exposure to BPA, even at very low doses, has been linked to a wide variety of health problems, from an increased risk of prostate cancer, to heart disease, to damage to the reproductive system.

Frederick vom Saal, a biologist at the University of Missouri’s Endocrine Disruptors Group, is one of the world’s leading researchers on the ill health effects of BPA in humans and animals. He is also one of the most outspoken critics of U.S. businesses and regulators for glossing over, or concealing, the major impact that BPA exposure is increasingly having on human health. Vom Staal is irate that even though BPA is quite similar to another
Frederick vom Saal
University of Missouri
Frederick vom Saal
synthetic hormone — DES, or Diethylstilbesterol — that caused myriad health problems in thousands of women in the 1940s and 1950s, federal regulators are only now beginning to take seriously the threat from BPA.

In an interview with Yale Environment 360 contributor Elizabeth Kolbert, vom Saal excoriated the U.S. chemical industry for attempting to quash research showing the dangers of BPA and for threatening him and other researchers. Vom Saal was equally critical of regulators from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other agencies, whom he says have relied on outdated studies, often funded by industry, to support claims that BPA is safe.

Vom Saal adamantly believes that BPA should be removed from all products as soon as possible, as was done a decade ago in Japan. Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said earlier this year that the health effects of BPA represent “reason for some concern,” the chemical still remains unregulated. Vom Saal maintains that the regulatory system has failed to protect U.S. consumers, adding, “It is a lie. It is a fraud. It is absolutely intolerable that this kind of thing is going on.”

Yale Environment 360: Everyone’s heard of BPA, but I really don’t think people know what it is. What is it?

Frederick vom Saal: Bisphenol A is derived from petroleum. You take benzene, this sort of basic building block that corporations like Exxon produce, and they sell this to corporations like Dow Chemical. And they’re the ones that turn this, through a manmade chemical reaction, into this chemical called Bisphenol A. And this is an extremely reactive chemical that has the shape that any biochemist will look at and say, “This chemical will act as an estrogen-mimicking hormonal chemical.”

e360: This chemical was originally investigated by...

vom Saal: Charles Edward Dodds. He was a British chemist, one of the leading chemists of the 1930s and 40s, and he won the Nobel Prize for synthesizing a chemical — people would love to dig him up and take the prize away from him — called DES, diethylstilbesterol, which was given to millions of women and has destroyed the lives of many of them. They were looking for synthetic, orally-active estrogens. Bisphenol A is highly absorbed, unlike the natural hormones that are degraded almost immediately in the stomach. And DES is highly absorbed. DES is, both structurally and functionally, very similar to BPA. There are lots of other, much more sophisticated, 21st century molecular assays that show BPA is actually as potent, and in some cases more potent, than DES.

e360: And why can’t we use BPA, for example, as a birth control hormone?

vom Saal: For the same reason we can’t use DES. It’s a cancer-causing chemical. When fetuses are exposed to it, we now know that it is related to increasing body weight. Also obesity, diabetes, heart disease, immune dysfunction including asthma and allergy, damage to every part of the reproductive system, including uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts in women,
That is such a staggeringly small drop in an Olympic-sized swimming pool, and it’s causing breast cancers.”
breast cancer. In men, low sperm counts, prostate cancer, abnormalities of the urethra that as they age, men can’t urinate normally — a major reason men go to the doctor. We are talking about billions of dollars of medical costs. And then from a neuro-biological point of view, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, some learning disabilities, social behavior disruption. It causes the brain of a young animal to look like a senile, aged adult, old person, and is part of impaired memory. This chemical is related to many of the epidemics in the world — diabetes, obesity, neural behavioral problems, reproductive abnormalities, decreases in fertility, early puberty in girls.

e360: So you have this estrogen-mimicking chemical. Why do we put it into so many products?

vom Saal: The idea that a chemist would study biology is new. Chemists who do chemical synthesis would look at that molecule and not see estrogen, okay. And they wouldn’t be aware that somebody had published that this was being considered to be a hormonal drug.

e360: But why is it in everything?

vom Saal: Well, this is a molecule that when you put it together, you make my hard and clear glasses. This is a great-looking product. The problem is that if you put it into hot material, put it in a base of a little bit of an alkaline environment, then the bonds break apart. When it’s in chain-linked form, its polymer form, these molecules are not hormonally active. But when they break away and they’re free, it’s a hormone.

e360: But let’s say I took the BPA out of this chemical. Why not just take it out?

vom Saal: Think of polycarbonate as a steel chain. And what you’re asking is — what if I take the steel out of that? You don’t have a steel chain. You can make that chain with something else, but it’s not going to have those characteristics. Now, actually they are making other polymer blends that have hard, clear characteristics. It’s taken them a long time to do that. In the 1950’s when they did this, they were euphoric. They had made something that superficially they thought looked like glass. Now, as anybody who’s had any kind of polycarbonate item knows, after washing it a hundred times or so, you can’t see through it. Water starts penetrating it, breaking it down; it’s dissolving. And under extreme conditions, you can take polycarbonate and put it in a saltwater solution and heat it up, and within 20 or 30 days, most of it is completely dissolved. It’s just gone.

e360: So how did you identify it as something of concern?

vom Saal: We were studying estrogens and their effects on fetuses, because we know that your natural hormone, estradiol, the International Cancer Registry labels that as a Class I carcinogen. Your lifetime risk of breast cancer is best described by your lifetime exposure to your own
Dow Chemical said, ‘Can we arrive at a mutually beneficial outcome, where you don’t publish this paper?’”
natural hormone, estradiol. You need that to reproduce. But humans didn’t used to live to 50 or 60. That wasn’t part of evolution, and — oops, you’re exposed to it that long, and then it’s involved in causing cancers in your body. And all of these other estrogens contribute to the estrogen load, because your body doesn’t know whether DES is estradiol or one of these other myriad of chemicals that can trick the body into thinking it’s being exposed to estrogens. Bisphenol A is on a list of chemicals that had been shown very clearly to mimic the efficacy of the natural hormone, estrogen.

The mantra about Bisphenol A is, “Even if it is an estrogen, it’s so weak, you don’t need to worry about it.” But that’s like saying Arnold Schwarzenegger is weak relative to Superman. Because estradiol can act below a part-per-trillion. That is such a staggeringly small drop in an Olympic-sized swimming pool, and it’s causing breast cancers. We are between 10 and a hundred to a thousand-million times lower than whatever toxicologists were thinking about. And what we did was, using human breast cancer cells, we were studying estrogen chemicals for their potency. And Bisphenol A lit up like a Christmas tree. We said, “Holy mackerel. What is it that would ever make anybody think this is weak?”

And we did an experiment, and we started off using a dose 25,000 times lower than anybody had ever studied. There had been one major NIH study on it. No one had really done a detailed examination of exposure during fetal and neonatal stages and childhood, when development’s occurring, when estrogens really damage the programming of the way your body’s going to function for the rest of life. This is what happened to the DES babies. At 20, they’re showing cancers nobody had ever seen before. The problem is, you don’t see them right away. Now, when you get into their uterus, it’s shaped like an hourglass; the fallopian tubes are all damaged. And now at age 50, they have over a three-fold increase in breast cancer. It took 50 years to see that. This is the signature of endocrine disruption.

We published that, and the chemical industry came after us, threatening us. All of the manufacturers called us up, threatened us.

e360: What year are we in?

vom Saal: 1996. Then Dow Chemical sent somebody down and said, “Can we arrive at a mutually beneficial outcome, where you don’t publish this
None of the regulatory agencies, which are heavily dominated by chemical industry interests, knew what to do with this.”
paper?” — which had already been accepted. I got a call a few weeks later, from somebody who said, “I’m aware that the chemical manufacturers are gearing up for a multi-million-dollar campaign about how great BPA is for babies,” borrowing a page out of Dutch Boy Paints, where, knowing lead kills babies, they targeted it as making your baby happy. So what you do is you target the product at the sub-population it’s actually going to seriously harm. These people are really sick. I mean somebody who would do that is, from my perspective, a sociopath.

e360: But now we’re 14 years on, and how many studies later?

vom Saal: Okay, over 1,000. And what you have is regulatory agency after regulatory agency, locked into procedures decades out of date. And unable, they claim, due to their rules, to acknowledge the existence, literally of any modern science. It’s like if you were to develop polio, we’d have to put you in an iron lung because our regulatory system doesn’t allow any kind of modern approach to deal with this. But that’s our chemical regulatory system.

None of the regulatory agencies, all of which are heavily dominated by chemical industry interests — they just didn’t know what to do with this. And the choice is, they’ve got 100,000 chemicals in commerce. They actually have regulatory authority over a small number of them, because in the 1970’s with the Toxic Substance Control Act, they grandfathered in 62,000 chemicals, including BPA, that are totally outside the regulatory system. So there’s no regulation of BPA.

But in January, 2010, the FDA did something remarkable — it reversed its position that BPA is safe, and said we agree with our science advisory agency that there is reason for concern for prostate cancer, for early puberty, for a variety of things. This was a huge breakthrough. Now we actually have a government agency that has accepted that this is a chemical to be avoided. But they said, “We’re sorry, but we do not have the authority to do that. We don’t even have the authority to go to the chemical industry and say, ‘What’s this in?’ We can’t even find that out.” It’s a grandfathered chemical.

e360: What could [the FDA] do?

vom Saal: What the FDA said is, “We are working with Congress to try to get laws changed.” But changing the rules that we operate by, if we had a compliant industry, would take five to 10 years. And this is one extremely non-compliant industry. It’s almost a $10 billion-a-year product. You know, people don’t give up that kind of money.

And 100 percent of chemical industry-funded studies say this chemical is completely safe. Have you heard this before? Every chemical, every drug
Every chemical you look at, follow the money and it will tell you the outcome of the research.”
you look at, follow the money and it will tell you the outcome of the research. Independent scientists find harm. People either overtly or covertly working with chemical industry’s interests are finding no harm. None of the industry and corporate labs have any standing whatsoever in the scientific community. And their research is pathetic because it’s so totally out of date, and uses techniques that nobody would use in an experiment, and are 40, 50 years old.

e360: Could you just describe one of the experiments that your lab did?

vom Saal: The first finding we had was that it created an abnormal prostate in a mouse fetus. And then we published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that you could actually, using a very sophisticated technique, take out the organ, you section it and scan it into a computer. You can say how many dorsal ducts there are, what are the characteristics of these ducts. Then we take these ducts coming out of the urethra and we stain them with special stains that identify exactly which types of cells are in there, and whether they’re dividing or not. And what we found is the stem cells — worst of all things, because these are the cells that in adulthood transition and become the cancer cells — and they’re the target of Bisphenol A. And they’re growing abnormally; the ducts are all grossly malformed.

We also fed BPA to a pregnant mouse, at a dose that was a thousand-fold difference between what could cause any effect, and then took her sons and identified that there were abnormalities in prostate development. Another group picked that up and treated rats with Bisphenol A. And in adulthood, they developed early stage prostate cancer. And this group was able to relate that to a change in programming of genes that were associated with the transition into prostate cancer in humans.

e360: So on a practical level — as a woman who fed all three of her infant sons out of plastic bottles — how worried do all of us parents have to be, and what can people practically do to avoid this ubiquitous chemical?

vom Saal: What we know is that estradiol and estrogens are risk factors for disease. And that means that if you take a hundred people, you know, seven or eight may get the disease, or ten, or more. And the other thing is that we know that among women, there’s a hundred-fold variation in the degree to which women respond to oral contraceptives, for instance. So what you cannot say is the fact that you did this to your children means automatically they’re going to have all these diseases. But it does increase
One of the things that I’ve done in our household is get rid of any kind of polycarbonate plastic.”
their risk of various abnormalities that you would want to keep an eye on. But all of the diseases we’re talking about are multi-factorial, and with BPA, the whole rest of an individual’s lifestyle interacts with that. I mean, in our animals it is leading to obesity with no increase in eating. But it means that if you’ve been exposed to this and you start to show symptoms of obesity, you would want to take counter measures, recognizing that just having the person having eat what you eat, doesn’t work — because this chemical, we find that it’s reprogrammed genes in fat cells, to function differently. And they’re putting more fat into their fat cells. Their fat cells are huge, compared to normal fat cells. They’re just socking away more lipid in there. And there’s nothing that person can do about it. But you can still control that person’s diet and not allow that to happen. One of the things that I’ve done is, in our household, my wife and I, first of all, have gotten rid of any kind of polycarbonate plastic.

e360: Which means any kind of those hard plastic bottles?

vom Saal: Hard, clear that do not say BPA free. They contain other chemicals that I would not recommend being exposed to. And the water in there is not pure, nor is it regulated. The best thing you can do for your water supply is buy a good in-house filtering system, and use public water that’s run through a reverse osmosis, carbon filter. And within a few months, relative to buying bottled water, you will be financially ahead. And you will be guaranteed to be drinking pure water. Okay. So the other thing is, any kind of water I put in a container, I put in a stainless steel container.

e360: And I once read you’ve said you only drink your beer out of bottles; we should not be using cans.

vom Saal: There is no canned product in the United States that does not have BPA, with a very few exceptions. So we use no canned products at our house. When the Japanese changed their can lining — which NAMPA, the National Association of Metal Packagers Association, claims that life on Earth would end if we took away BPA. Well, guess what? The Japanese did that. You don’t find BPA in can linings in Japan.

There are a zillion alternatives to baby bottles [with BPA], and there are already alternatives to cans. So what [U.S. Senator Diane] Feinstein wants to do in the BPA bill is give the canning industry a finite amount of time to get it changed.

The other thing is when you change the can lining, you’d better change it to something that’s gone through not the traditional regulatory agency nonsense, with out-of-date testing methods. You’d better get the experts in this field together and say, “How do I determine whether this has endocrine disrupting activity?” Other people in this community can tell you that. But you will not get that out of the U.S. EPA.

e360: All this raises rather alarming questions about whether we can really be confident of anything, or any chemicals that we’re consuming. But your story suggests that even when we have very clear evidence that something is harmful, we can’t get rid of it. So what faith should we have in this system at all? Any?

vom Saal: None. The system has fossilized to the point that it is absolutely perverting the sense that they are engaging in any kind of rational process
The system has fossilized to the point that it is perverting any rational process of evaluating the health effects of chemicals.”
of evaluating the health effects of chemicals. A group of us from the Endocrine Society, representatives of a large medical society, told the head of the [EPA] Office of Chemical Safety, “You people have spent over $100 million; you do not have a credible set of assays, you have accomplished nothing except wasting a lot of money on non-bid contracts, for which you got no data. And the contract labs you’re using are providing you garbage that are so out of range of acceptable performance limits. And you’re declaring them usable.”

And he rejected this. He got mad. We told him, “You don’t know what you’re doing. And unless you bring in endocrinologists who know how to study hormonally-active chemicals, you’re going nowhere.” And he didn’t want to hear that. And he’s going around telling people they have this wonderful program. It’s a lie; it is a fraud; it is absolutely intolerable that this kind of thing is going on.

e360: Now, you must get this all the time, but people must say, “Oh, you’re just being an alarmist.” What do you say to those folks?

vom Saal: Look at the data. I mean, as a scientist, if you go beyond what the data show, you lose credibility and you’re finished. One of the reasons that I have credibility in this field is that I have never done more than explained when I read that list of what this does, each of them are supported by piles of publications, from different laboratories. And that is the process of validation of scientific findings. If these studies were only done once in one place and nobody could replicate them, I would not be including them in a list of harm caused by this chemical. This is the highest


Pervasive Plastics: Why New,
Tighter Controls Are Needed

Pervasive Plastics: Why the U.S. Needs New and Tighter Controls
Plastics are in everything from diapers to water bottles to cell phones. But given the proven health threats of some plastics — as well as the enormous environmental costs — the time has come for the U.S. to pass a comprehensive plastics control law, writes John Wargo.
volume endocrine-disrupting chemical in commerce. We don’t know what products it’s in. We know that in animals, it causes extensive harm. There are now a whole series of human studies finding exactly the same relationship between the presence of Bisphenol A and the kind of harm shown in animals.

That scares me. I don’t think that’s alarmist. This is a chemical about which we know more than any other chemical with the exception of dioxin. Right now, it is the most studied chemical in the world. NIH [National Institutes of Health] has $30 million of ongoing studies of this chemical. Do you think that federal officials in Europe, the United States, Canada, and Japan, would all have this as the highest priority chemical to study, if there were only a few alarmists saying it was a problem?

POSTED ON 24 Nov 2010 IN Business & Innovation Policy & Politics Policy & Politics Pollution & Health Pollution & Health North America North America 


I used to work for Bayer in the US developing polycarbonate applications in the early 1980s. From my experience there are a many claims made here that are not exactly correct. I am wary of BPA now and would not use polycarbonate baby bottles but it is not as dangerous as the author would have you believe.

All food contact polymers were always tested stringently to be sure of meeting FDA requirements. The technical people at Bayer were always conscientious in food contact applications. As a personal observation, I had a set of 6 clear polycarbonate mugs that I used daily for over 20 years for microwaved hot beverages and cold beer - which came from cans.

They did not cloud up as the author claims; I am 67 yrs old, in excellent health and I have no prostate, urethal or endocrine problems nor any cancer. Polycarbonate is used for many medical applications also. I agree that we need to get better at using plastics but I feel the author is going way overboard in assessing the dangers of polycarbonate polymers.

Posted by Charles on 25 Nov 2010

In any decision/design we must ask.

"Is this caring towards the earth and all her creatures"

Posted by Ausearth on 26 Nov 2010

This is horrible! I did feed my children their formula from plastic bottles. I also picked carpeting to be installed a year and a half ago which, I was told, was made from plastic bottles! We don't have the kind of money it takes to have it removed and replaced and there is just particle board underneath it. I am scared. And I can't believe, but unfortunately at the same time I can believe, that our government would let this happen!

Posted by Teresa Crews on 27 Nov 2010

I am so grateful that you are publicizing this research. I was exposed to DES in utero, and have spent my adult life waiting to learn that I had cancer. I lost a baby earlier this year, and am sure it was due to endocrine disrupters -- most likely a combination of bpa and residual des.

The EPA and FDA are useless. They do whatever the industry tells them to do. To hell with public safety.

I am ashamed to be American.

Posted by jill on 28 Nov 2010

Very informative yet daunting article.

Thank goodness for scientists and consumer watchdogs like Von Saam.

Posted by Jennifer on 28 Nov 2010

An excellent article on an important topic. Regarding the statement that BPA is the highest volume endocrine-disrupting chemical in commerce, I would like to propose a strong contender for this title – bromine.

As I sit in my office chair (bromine) and type on my keyboard (bromine) in front of my computer (bromine), it is a reminder that bromine flame retardants (PBDEs) are in virtually every commercial product containing plastic or fabric - drapes, pajamas, bedding, cell phones, sofas, chairs, pillows, etc.

As a researcher, I have written several books on illness prevention, including chapters on the detoxification of toxic halides, of which bromine/bromides are ever present. They are used as a dough conditioner in bread, and are an ingredient (brominated vegetable oil) in some soft drinks.

One of their biggest impacts on the human body is the interference with iodine uptake, which in turn can cause endocrine disruption. Iodine is an essential mineral needed by the thyroid and other glands. In women, the breasts and ovaries are also large users. Tests of several thousand women show virtually all are iodine deficient, leading to thyroid disorders, fibrocystic breasts, PCOS, and other hormonal disruptions. Bromides are neurotoxic, leading to a wide variety of nervous system disorders.

A small group of scientists and MDs have conducted research showing inorganic iodine/iodide supplementation can displace bromine from cells of the body, and force its excretion, ultimately detoxifying the body and reversing ill effects.

For details on this research, see the book "Iodine, Why You Need it, Why You Can't Live Without It," by David Brownstein, MD. The subject is also covered in some depth in "The Wellness Project" and "Nature's Detox Plan."

Roy Mankovitz, Director
A research organization

Posted by RMankovitz on 28 Nov 2010

I would love to see Dr. Vom Saal write a book and talk this up on Oprah, etc. The idea is gaining some traction in the marketplace of ideas, but it needs a big boost.

Posted by Phyllis H Wheeler on 29 Nov 2010

Thank you for sharing this important research. I recently met a researcher at UC Berkeley working on a BPA animal study who told me he was really shocked at how very small exposures could have surprisingly big health impacts on the mice in their study. This article confirms some of what he was telling me. One of my concerns about usage of plastics is that information about BPA has been "withheld" from the public for so many decades that it makes me wonder if there are other types of chemicals used in plastics that consumers may not be aware of yet and should be avoiding, as well. If this is the case, I would be interested to know.

Sandra Harris

Posted by Sandra Harris on 29 Nov 2010

vom Saal and his supporters continue to use the media to push their agenda (especially at points of high political drama - Food Safety Bill), because their work cannot be duplicated and is in some cases no better than a high school science fair experiment. If you read the papers - I have - that vom Saal refers to, it is shocking how badly the experiments/studies were conducted.

So two quick questions. First, why is vom Saal on this Quixotic mission (funded by other industries), and second, why does he feel that his scholarship is better than others?

Posted by caddo on 01 Dec 2010

What kind of results do we expect from the "Endocrine Disruptors Group"? Another example of post-modern "Science".

Posted by Werner Bussmann on 14 Dec 2010

What happens to these bullies when we stop following their lead, think for ourselves, and connect with our neighbors?

I'm currently neck deep in a grassroots effort to ban fracking in Southern Illinois. It starts this May in a nearby county. We live between two rivers on the New Madrid Fault in an area called "little Egypt." When things go wrong with fracking, it poisons the land, air, and water for generations. What does that mean for farmers when fracking chemicals spilled on their land keep them from growing food--and not for just a few seasons? What does that mean for hospitals when incidents of disease are highly increased around drilling sites? What does that mean for property owners when fracking causes earthquakes? Have you checked with your agent? Insurance companies won't pay for man-made earthquake damage. They measure the damage over four quarters and if more damage occurs, that period is extended. 1\% of claims are settled.

From our point of view, the oil companies regulate themselves, the EPA is powerless, and millions of gallons of water are used to frack each well and can never be used again for anything else. How much water can we afford to frack? What kind of pressure is that going to put on the people, farms, and ecosystems? It's very interesting to read this about the chemical companies because you really put things in perspective.

In the meantime, are you going to make me drink that water?

See the overwhelm at www.dontfractureillinois.org or waterdefense.org.

If we're really letting pirates (the chemical companies, big pharma, and oil companies) lead us in this brave new world, what does ithis mean for each successive generation? This is the same problem we're facing with species extinction in general.

John Waldman at Yale Environment 360 talks about the perceptual shift that takes place:

"Every generation takes the natural environment it encounters during childhood as the norm against which it measures environmental decline later in life. With each ensuing generation, environmental degradation generally increases, but each generation takes that degraded condition as the new normal. Scientists call this phenomenon “shifting baselines" or “inter-generational amnesia," and it is part of a larger and more nebulous reality — the insidious ebbing of the ecological and social relevancy of declining and disappearing species."

So how do we conserve and share the best part of what we have when we're stuck in survival mode? How can we think about a long term wellness practice when we can't keep ourselves healthy enough in the short term to survive?


We NEED to step back as far as we can to get the biggest picture we can see since humans have NEVER WIELDED this kind of power before. Let's be proactive now that we can see what true democracy looks like. Here's a photo from April 13, 2012 The Egyptian people gather for a massive protest in Tahrir square in Cairo. Hundreds of thousands took Cairo's Tahrir Square denouncing military rule of the country and united to ban Mubarak-era cabinet members including a spy chief from running in the upcoming presidential elections.


Welcome to the water wars!

Posted by Beth Martell on 14 Apr 2012

Beware of reverse osmosis systems. Ask a lot of questions and get the MDSD sheets on the poly pipe connectors and the BPA lining of the metal tank holding the filters. You may THINK you are getting pure water and then again, maybe you are not.

Posted by T.W. on 08 May 2012

Here's a great presentation talking about the dangers of our dependency on fossil fuels:

"When we light them on fire, their combustion byproducts—mainly carbon dioxide—or their uncombusted fugitive emissions—mainly methane—become greenhouse gases.

When we use fossil fuels as feedstocks for petrochemicals, we create toxic substances that tinker with cell-signaling pathways and alter gene expression in ways that place cells on the pathway to tumor formation, otherwise contribute to chronic illness, or alter the course of development."


Posted by Beth Martell on 14 May 2012

Comments have been closed on this feature.
Elizabeth Kolbert, who conducted this interview for Yale Environment 360, has been a staff writer for the New Yorker since 1999. Her 2005 New Yorker series on global warming, “The Climate of Man,” won a National Magazine Award and was extended into a book, Field Notes from a Catastrophe, which was published in 2006. In previous articles for Yale Environment 360, she reported on a study that found the pace of global warming is outstripping projections and on the possibility that scientists will designate a new geological epoch to reflect the changes that humans have caused.



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Sign of Future Climate Turmoil?

by fen montaigne
This year will almost certainly go down as the warmest on record in the Arctic, with autumn temperatures soaring 36 degrees F above normal. In a Yale e360 interview, climatologist Jennifer Francis explains why a swiftly warming Arctic may have profound effects on global weather.

Are Trees Sentient Beings?
Certainly, Says German Forester

by richard schiffman
In his bestselling book, The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben argues that to save the world’s forests we must first recognize that trees are “wonderful beings” with innate adaptability, intelligence, and the capacity to communicate with — and heal — other trees.

At Standing Rock, A Battle
Over Fossil Fuels and Land

by katherine bagley
The Native American-led protest against the Dakota Access pipeline has gained global attention. In an e360 interview, indigenous expert Kyle Powys Whyte talks about the history of fossil fuel production on tribal lands and the role native groups are playing in fighting climate change.

The Moth Snowstorm: Finding
True Value in Nature’s Riches

by roger cohn
Journalist Michael McCarthy has chronicled the loss of wildlife in his native Britain and globally. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, he talks about why he believes a new defense of the natural world is needed – one based on the joy and spiritual connection it provides for humans.

What’s Killing Native Birds in
The Mountain Forests of Kauai?

by diane toomey
Biologist Eben Paxton is sounding the alarm about the catastrophic collapse of native bird populations on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. His group's research has uncovered the culprit: disease-carrying mosquitoes that have invaded the birds' mountain habitat.

Exploring How and Why
Trees ‘Talk’ to Each Other

by diane toomey
Ecologist Suzanne Simard has shown how trees use a network of soil fungi to communicate their needs and aid neighboring plants. Now she’s warning that threats like clear-cutting and climate change could disrupt these critical networks.

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e360 VIDEO

A look at how acidifying oceans could threaten the Dungeness crab, one of the most valuable fisheries on the U.S. West Coast.
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The latest
from Yale
Environment 360
is now available for mobile devices at e360.yale.edu/mobile.


An aerial view of why Europe’s per capita carbon emissions are less than 50 percent of those in the U.S.
View the photos.

e360 VIDEO

An indigenous tribe’s deadly fight to save its ancestral land in the Amazon rainforest from logging.
Learn more.

e360 VIDEO

Food waste
An e360 video series looks at the staggering amount of food wasted in the U.S. – a problem with major human and environmental costs.
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e360 VIDEO

Choco rainforest Cacao
Residents of the Chocó Rainforest in Ecuador are choosing to plant cacao over logging in an effort to slow deforestation.
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e360 VIDEO

Tribal people and ranchers join together to stop a project that would haul coal across their Montana land.
Watch the video.