A symposium presented by invitation at PennStateUniversity, March 4, 1997.
The science of Chemistry began in 1776 when ex-patriate Englishman Joseph Priestley isolated oxygen. Until then, the defective “Phlogiston” theory prevailed.
The late nineteenth century saw the development of superphospate and, through this medium, the introduction, both directly and indirectly, of cadmium into the human diet. Cadmium is now implicated in the arterial deposition of cholesterol.
Circa 1936, Swiss Chemist Dr. Paul Müller developed DDT and, in 1948, became a Noble Laureate for his discovery. There is little doubt that DDT and its related organochlorine pesticides have, both directly and indirectly, saved countless lives but, in doing so, came close to causing irreversible damage to the atmosphere. The organochlorines are now implicated as carcinogens.
The exponential increase in the late twentieth century of life-threatening illnesses such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, asthma and adult onset diabetes are related to the man-made chemicals in the environment (“environmental stressors”). Methods of combating such stressors are discussed.
Governments around the world are finding their health budgets stretched to the limit while health authorities and hospitals cry poverty. This was certainly not the case after the end of World War II, just fifty years ago. A question that must surely enter the mind of an observer is, “What has changed so much over the past fifty years?”
Just fifty years ago, cancer accounted for 6% of all deaths in Australia. Today that figure is approaching 60%, ten times that previous rate. During the same period, the death rate from coronary disease has quadrupled.
Asthma was once quite a rare disease with few schools having more than one sufferer enrolled. Today, in Australia, one child in every six carries an inhaler, or “puffer”. Indeed, it was recently reported that half of the students at the YuntaAreaSchool in South Australia are asthma sufferers.
Adult Onset Diabetes, a previously uncommon disease, is said now to afflict over 300,000 Australians. Multiple Sclerosis has always been around, but never in history to such an unprecedented extent.
Then there are the “new” diseases - such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Over 70,000 erstwhile able-bodied Australians have been invalided with this disease and placed on invalid pensions.
Childhood leukaemia and cancer have become all too prevalent in our society.
The questions must arise in any thinking mind, “What is happening? What has gone wrong?” Hypotheses of “more refined detectability” are simply invalid as death by cancer, for example, was just as detectable fifty years ago as it is today!
Today’s troubles really started in 1776, the year of American Independence. It was in that year that an ex-patriate Englishman, Joseph Priestley, discovered Oxygen and paved the way for a whole new science, a science that has literally taken over the world, the science of Chemistry.
Until then, no-one in the world understood just how a chemical reaction took place and it was only Joseph Priestley’s discovery of Oxygen that made such understanding possible and made it possible for man to make chemicals. Chemicals come from Chemistry.
Chemistry did slowly progress and become more known but it was a full century before this new branch of science began to have any significant impact upon our diet and nutrition.
The first agricultural chemical was developed in the Bordeaux region of France where an adherent of this new science, a chemist, prepared for his brother, a grape grower, a powder designed to be unpalatable to two-legged pests - the local schoolboys - yet which could be easily removed after picking and would not remain to affect the sale or use of those grapes.
This copper oxychloride based powder was soon used equally successfully by apple orchardists for the very same reason and it was then that a very unusual side-effect was noticed. The apples dusted with this powder were all blemish-free! The 19th century blight of apples, black spot, had simply disappeared and the orchardists began reaping fortunes for their unblemished apples.
However, this “honeymoon” was short-lived. The use of this powder, later to become known as “Bordeaux powder”, became so widespread that unblemished apples soon became the norm and supply soon outstripped demand and prices sank to where they always had been.
Furthermore, another problem emerged. For no reason apparent at that time, the codling moth began to proliferate and for nearly the next century, the “worm” became an inevitable accessory to an apple. Until well into the 1950s, the answer to the question, “What’s worse than finding a worm in an apple?” was, “Finding half a worm”.
The scene now shifts to Switzerland, the birthplace of chemical industry, and the time is the late 1930s. A Swiss chemist, Dr. Paul Müller, developed dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, a new chemical designed to kill insects. The purpose of this chemical was to provide a much more effective alternative to turning tropical swamplands into biological cess-pools by destroying all life with a solid dose of kerosene or sump oil in an effort to control the malaria mosquito.
This new chemical, DDT, was the grandfather of a whole range of organochlorine pesticides that were to become so common and widely used throughout the world until well into the 1970s.
There is no doubt that Dr. Müller’s discovery saved countless millions of lives in malaria regions of the world, including tens of thousands of Allied lives during WW2. In recognition of his achievement, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1948.
And apples again became blemish-free.
But, with time, the ill effects of these chemicals began emerging. The first documented case was certainly the pioneering investigations in 1957 into the near extinction of the robin colonies at MichiganStateUniversity (1).
Then Keith (2) found evidence of effects on reproduction in herring gulls as a result of poor hatchability of their eggs. This was confirmed by a number of investigations which showed that reproductive failure in fish-eating birds was primarily due to the effects of DDT and its derivatives (DDD and DDE) upon calcium metabolism and the consequential production of thin-shelled eggs. (3), (4), (5), (6).
One cannot help but wonder whether osteoporosis in humans, especially females, may eventually be linked to this, especially as organochlorine pesticides, along with, from plastics,nonylphenol and phthallates, are now implicated as “oestrogen mimickers” (7), (8).
Aulerich et al. (9) reported in 1972 the effect of pesticide contaminated fish meal which constituted up to 15% of the feedstock for valuable mink. Although no effects upon the adult animals were immediately apparent, reproductive losses of up to 80% were recorded.
Within twenty years of Dr. Müller becoming a Nobel laureate, Wurstor (10) reported that the world was at risk with over 1.5 million tonnes of active DDT tied up in the world’s oceans and even over 2,000 tonnes in the Antarctic Ice Shelf, thousands of miles from the nearest spraying. The world was only just beginning to realise the predicament it was facing.
The algae of the world’s waters and oceans are responsible, by photosynthesis, for about two thirds of the world’s oxygen supply. And the oxygen production of these algae had been reduced by up to 85% by the presence of organochlorine pesticides. It was not the drop in oxygen that was the threat, but the simultaneous rise in carbon dioxide that had the potential to make the world’s atmosphere unbreathable and temperatures unbearable by the year 1990!
DDT had become as universally detectable as Priestley’s oxygen!
Organochlorine pesticides use was eventually controlled by international maxima being applied to their presence in foods, especially meat, grain and dairy products. In the late 1960s, New Zealand became one of the first countries in the world to introduce a “Pesticides Act” and environmental groups campaigned universally for “organically grown” food. The FDA set maxima for organochlorine pesticides in many foods (11) and the first reports of the possible carcinogenicity of these compounds were released (12).
A new answer emerged to the old question, “What’s worse than finding a worm in an apple?” This answer was “Finding no worm!” as this could well mean that the apple had been sprayed with pesticides.
The announcement, in February 1969, of the detection of DDT in Human Breast Milk from virtually all corners of the world (13) was widely publicised and the writer became Public Enemy #1 of the Nursing Mothers’ Association. Much more professional scorn was received for the predictions that DDT and the organochlorine pesticides would be proven to cause cancer. It was not until 1992 that the writer was vindicated. The predictions of global warming are now part of history.
The DDT and other organochlorine pesticides sprayed in the four post-war decades will be with us for many more years. Even in the year 2,000, up to 8% of Dr. Müller’s original experimental DDT of the late 1930s will still be with us and some of its molecules will be present in the body of every living human being in the world.
But DDT was not the only agricultural chemical causing problems. There were, and still are, many others, some of which can have equally or even more drastic effects upon human health. One of the most insidious of these is the heavy metal, Cadmium.
Cadmium enters our food mainly from plants grown in ground that has been artificially fertilised with superphosphate. Although superphosphate has been with us for many decades, it was not until the 1960s, the decade of my pesticide research, that an eminent Australian, Prof. Harry Bloom (14) of the University of Tasmania proposed that this heavy metal could be linked to the increase in cholesterol deposition in coronary arteries. Of course, being a “mere” Professor of Chemistry, his hypotheses were not very well received by the AMA.
Even when, in the mid 1970s, his hypotheses were reinforced by CSIRO findings, they were still unacceptable to the AMA.
It was the late 1970s that the World Health Organisation entered the arena and funded further research into this area and the writer was fortunate enough to be one of the recipients of Post Doctoral Fellowships funded in 1977-79.
The evidence clear demonstrated that, where trace cadmium residues were detectable in the body, cholesterol deposition would occur even in persons with barely moderate blood cholesterol levels. With no cadmium detectable, no deposition was evident, irrespective of cholesterol intake or serum cholesterol levels. (15)
However, cadmium intake was virtually uncontrollable. Cadmium had, like DDT, become almost universally used and it was, and still is, almost impossible to obtain food with no trace of cadmium.
DDT and Cadmium are two bitter legacies left our grandchildren by our fathers’ chemistry. But not all chemistry is bad. Chemistry has enabled us to increase enormously the productivity of our ever-dwindling agricultural lands. Without chemistry in agriculture, the world would simply be unable to support even half its present population.
All of this has, however, come at a cost - the cost of complete nutrition and the cost of our children’s health.
There is simply no doubt that today’s chemically accelerated agriculture, besides feeding us, is also killing us.
Tomatoes, for example, were once grown outdoors in the fresh air and experienced the full spectrum of hot, cold, wind, rain and the life-giving rays of the sun. They were naturally fertilised using household wastes. They were deep orange-red, juicy, delicious and both smelled and looked like tomatoes. They were full of nutrition and goodness.
Today, tomatoes are often grown somewhat differently (16). Firstly the soil is sterilised with chloropicrin, a deadly poison, to kill every living organism therein. This “dead” soil is then artificially enriched with chemicals and growth hormones before the tomatoes are planted. As the tomatoes grow, they do so in an artificial environment with temperature and humidity semi-controlled in a glasshouse. The glass itself prevents the full spectrum of solar radiation from ever reaching the plants. The tomatoes are picked while they are still green and hard and immature. They are then dipped in the pesticide dimethoate, a cholinesterase inhibitor and NRA registered poison which was developed from Hitler’s WW2 nerve gases. This supposedly controls such insect pests as fruit-fly lest they be transported across state borders. The tomatoes are then artificially ripened with ethylene gas then sold and eaten.
They are approximately the same shape as tomatoes, but are an unnatural pinkish red in colour. Their flesh contains numerous air holes as they have never had the time to fully develop. They rarely smell like tomatoes - chemical odours persist more often than not - and the taste is most unlike the tomatoes of yesteryear. The writer remains unconvinced that they contain more than a fraction of the goodness and nutrition of those tomatoes of yesteryear.
This condition must apply to almost every form of food available in Western society today. Food, today, to be available in quantities sufficient to feed our growing world population, needs to be grown artificially quickly and with chemical help. This means that, inevitably, some of the essential nutrients - vitamins and antioxidants - may no longer be present in sufficient quantities.
Man was made to live in perfect harmony with nature and, in nature, man has been provided for every human need, including a cure for every ailment past, present and future.
Until quite recently, on the scale of things, man was able to derive all his nutritional needs from naturally grown foods. One of the most important nutritional needs has been natural antioxidants - antioxidants occurring naturally in sufficient quantities to combat the normal free-radical production of a normally active body.
Free radicals are, of course, those atoms and molecules that are dangerous and active due to the presence on one or more unpaired electrons and these free radicals have been indicted in most of the twentieth-century ailments that man has brought upon himself. They may only exist for a fraction of a second in some instances but that fraction of a second may be sufficient for the free radical to cause irreparable damage to the DNA structure of a cell, even to the extent of triggering the formation of cancer (17).
Today, of course, we are exposed to vastly more free radical damage than ever before in history. The hole in the ozone layer allows more dangerous ultraviolet radiation to reach exposed parts of the body. That produces free radicals.
Background radiation has increased, not only from the increased amount of solar radiation reaching the troposphere, where we live, but also as a result of world-wide nuclear technology and past nuclear mistakes and accidents. Some of this radiation we have caused will be a legacy to mankind for hundreds of generations. This ionising radiation produces even more free radicals.
The pollution in the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat also - and very significantly - contributes to our escalating free radical exposure as a result of the toxins, including pesticides, heavy metals and such like, occurring therein.
Small wonder that all the diseases identified at the introduction - cancer, asthma, multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, coronary artery disease, osteoporosis, diabetes and most forms of arthritis to name a few - are increasing, some exponentially.
Something can, however, be done about it and the small cost of doing so is negligible compared with the savings such action will make for the nation’s strained health budget. The answer is surely antioxidants - dietary supplementation with dietary antioxidants which occur in several forms - herbal, mineral and vitamin.
Mineral antioxidants, the main ones being zinc and selenium, are well enough known, but only zinc is permitted as a nutritional supplement in Australia. Selenium is still listed in Australia as a Schedule 4 Prescription Drug (18) despite some areas of Australia being seriously deficient in this important mineral. Moves are afoot to have this situation rectified and the whole health industry is waiting with bated breath for the Australian authorities to listen to reason and follow the rest of the world in allowing small amounts of Selenium in nutritional supplements without a doctor’s prescription.
Vitamin antioxidants have only come to be recognised in the past two or three decades as having other than simple nutritional value. The antioxidant vitamins are A (and its precursor, beta-carotene), C and E. The writer’s personal interest in the antioxidant vitamins stems from research (15), in the late seventies, into the relation between traces of the heavy metal, cadmium, and coronary artery disease.
These antioxidant vitamins have been demonstrated to show significantbenefits both in formalised trials and in extensive studies (17). For example, a HarvardUniversity study (19) conducted of some 90,000 US Nursing Sisters showed that those who did not supplement their diet with Vitamin A (or beta-carotene) exhibited a 20% higher incidence of breast cancer. An extensive, five-year long, double-blind trial conducted upon some 30,000 inhabitants of the Linxian province of Northern China (20) was most definitive. Those who received a daily supplementation of Vitamins A (as beta-carotene) and E along with Selenium showed a 9% reduction in overall mortality, a 13% reduction in Cancer deaths and a 21% reduction in stomach and bowel cancer.
However, the down-side to simple antioxidant vitamin supplementation is the problem of over-dosage. Apart from the risk of birth defects including teratogenesis, the toxic effects of excessive Vitamin A have been well documented (20) and are widely known. These have been countered by the use of non-toxic beta-carotene, one molecule of which, when hydrolyzed in the liver, produces two molecules of Vitamin A.
But even beta-carotene is not without its risks. Although very high natural intakes of beta-carotene (e.g., fresh carrot juice) has not been shown to produce any adverse effect other than an orange tinge to the skin, Huttanen (21) reports that a Finnish study has shown intake of 20mg or more of beta-carotene as a supplement to be counterproductive in terms of many forms of cancer; for example, 20mg per day of beta carotene supplementation is now considered to increase the risk of bowel cancer more so than none whatsoever. The optimum daily dosage of beta carotene as a supplement is considered to be around 8 per day with 2 to 18 mg per day still demonstrating reduced incidence of, for example, bowel cancer.
Vitamin C supplementation has become extremely controversial with some professionals recommending up to 30,000 mg per day. There is little doubt, however, that intravenous megadoses of Vitamin C have demonstrated significant cancer remissions. However, bio-retention is another matter with most excess being excreted within a few hours. The body is only able to retain a maximum of 100mg per cubic decimetre of serum ascorbate and, even the cellular retention is minimal. While bioflavonoids have vastly enhanced cellular retention, the blood serum maxima are finite and have a very limiting effect upon Vitamin C megadoses.
High vitamin E supplementation has been shown to have an immunosuppressive effect.
The answer to the inherent problems of the over-use of vitamins as antioxidants came a number of years ago when a new family of natural chemicals, known as the proanthocyanidins (22), was identified and extracted. These are reported to be thirty to fifty times more powerful as antioxidants than even vitamins C and E, while demonstrating none of the undesirable traits of bio-excretion or, in the case of vitamin E, immunosuppression.
While the proanthocyanidins are distributed widely in nature, they are, generally, not bioavailable.The first member of this family to be extracted was from the bark of Pinus pinaster,the Maritime Pine. Some samples of this extract, however, have demonstrated serious problems, not the least of which is the presence of traces of pesticides and fungicides (most pine bark has suffered decades of chemical sprays) and of other undesirable substances.
The next member of this family to be successfully extracted was from the seed of the dark grape, Vitis vinifera. It has been long known and recognised that nations whose red wine intake is significant also demonstrate a much lower incidence of cancer and, particularly, coronary artery disease. The reason for this is that the proanthocyanidins naturally occurring in the seed of the dark grape are extracted by the alcohol-water mixture produced during the fermentation process of red wine making. Such extracts do not inherit the trace toxin problems of Maritime pine bark extracts and have been demonstrated to be very much more bioavailable and bioretainablethan those.
Proanthocyanidins also occur in lime flower, bilberry fruit, peanut skin, garlic and many other natural sources.
These proanthocyanidins have been shown to have excellent cancer prevention qualities due to their powerful anti-oxidant qualities, especially when used in conjunction with the anti-oxidant vitamins.
The final point to be addressed is synergy in nature. Synergy is, by definition, the working together of two or more drugs or muscles etc. which produces an effect greater than the sum oftheir individual effects (23).
Synergy is present in the centuries-old European herbal preparation “Buerlecethin” where the delicate balance of B-group vitamins provides for all of man’s needs with a synergistically balanced microdose and these B-group vitamins do now show in the urine for some hours and are bioretained for up to 72 hours. This compares more than favourably with the traditional B-group megadose which can show in the urine within 30 minutes and may be totally excreted within a few hours.
Calcium, to be fully bioavailable, needs to be in the form of the protein-bound amino acid chelate and, to be able to be taken up into the bones of, for example, a menopausal lady, needs to be synergistically balanced with folate and vitamin B-12. In this manner, as little as ten milligrams of calcium may provide as much calcium for the bones as a litre of full cream milk.
The megadose has been be likened to killing an ant with a sledgehammer … and forgetting all about the Ming vase upon which the ant is sitting. That Ming vase is your body.
In summary, the pollution in the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat enhances enormously the free radical production in our bodies; these are environmental stressors which put the body into overload and, quite often, the body then puts itself into a partial or not-so-partial shut-down mode with the resultant emergence of one or more of the twentieth century maladies spoken of at the commencement of this paper.
By supplementing the diet with these powerful and broad spectrum herbal antioxidants combined with a fastidiously and synergistically balanced vitamin and mineral microdose, these environmental stressors can be combatted and taken care of nutritionally. Then, and only then, is the body freed from these stressors and able to combat these twentieth century maladies by itself.
In that way, all human beings on planet Earth can realistically look forward to living healthfully into the twenty-first century.
(1) Wallace, G.J., Statement before the Subcommittee on Energy, Natural Resources, and the Environment of the Committee on Commerce, Part 2, Serial No. 91-15, 1969.
(2) Keith, J.A., J. Applied Ecol. (1966) 3 (Suppl), 57-70.
(3) Stickel, L.F., Rhodes, L.I., Proceedings of the Symposium on the Biological Impact of Pesticides in the Environment, Environmental Health Series No. 1, 31-39, J.W. Gilchrist, Ed., Oregon State Univ. (1969).
(6) Keith, J.O., Woods, L.A., Hunt, E.G., Trans. N. Amer. Wildl. and Nat. Resources Conf. (1970) 35, 56-63.
(7) Lee, J.R., “What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause”, Warner Book, New York (1996), 50.
(8) Kenton, L. “Passage to Power”, Random House, London (1995) 34.
(9) Aulerich, R.J., Ringer, R.K., Seagran, H.L., Youatt, W.G., “Effects of Feeding Coho Salmon and Other Great Lakes Fish on Mink Reproduction,” Can. J. Zool. (1972).
(10) Wurstor, C., Proc. Conf. Res. Chem. University of California (Spring 1970).
(11) Johnson, Charles C., Statement before the subcommittee on Energy, Natural Resources and the environment of the Committee on Commerce, “Effects of Pesticides on Sports and Commercial Fisheries,” Part 1, Serial No. 91-15 (1969).
(12) Lueschow, L.A., Winter, D.R., “Pesticide Residues and their implications in the Upper Great Lakes,” 13th Meeting Amer. Assoc. Adv. Sci. (Dec 28, 1970).
(13) Raymont, W.D., “The Occurrence and Distribution of DDT and its Derivatives in Human Breast Milk,” Proc. Third Conf. Pest. Res. Chem., Los Angeles (1969).
(14) Bloom, H. Aust. Health Survey, Mar 1994, 609-612.
(15) Raymont, W.D., Wells, J.R., Yamamoto, K., “Further Studies on the Relationship between Trace Cadmium Residues and Arterial Deposition of Cholesterol,” PDF Report, WHO/CU (1979).
(16) Raymont, W.D., ”Final Report on the Dimethoate Dipping of Queensland Tomatoes for Human Consumption in South Australia,” S.A. Health Commission, May 1988.
(17) (numerous authors from) Am J. Clin. Nutr., 53 (Suppl.) (1), 189S-396S (1991).
(18) “Standard for the Uniform Scheduling of Drugs and Poisons,” 10, 108 (1995).
(19) Gottschling, C., “Vitaminen gegen Krebs,” Focus, 5, 31 January 1994, 94-99.
(20) Hathcock, J.N., Hatlan, D.G., Jenkins, M.Y., McDonald, J.T., Sundaresan, P.R., Wilkening, V.N., “Evaluation of Vitamin A Toxicity,” Amer. J. Clin. Nutr., 52 (2) 183-202 (1990).
(21) Huttunen, J., (in) Spring Report of the Finnish National Public Health Institution (1994).