Toxic

Update: 2016-10-212
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It's an unpleasant thought, but we're exposed to toxins every day. This episode, TED speakers ask: should we accept our toxic world as reality or can we make change?

Following script is auto-generated by Speech to Text Technology:

support for this podcast in the following message come from concur a service where employees get simplified expense reports and business leaders get full visibility into their company spending habits expense travel invoice learn more at concurred dot com slash Radio Hour this the the is the Head Radio Hour each week the groundbreaking Ted Technology Design at Stanford and Ted conferences around gift of the human to believe in impossible the true nature of reality beckons just beyond those talks those ideas adapted for radio NPR guy rise and I showed a toxic ideas about human change and resilience in a world full of toxins and chemicals so let's start in one of the most toxic places on earth there has been a nuclear accident in the Soviet Union and the Soviets have admitted that it happened the Soviet version is this one of the atomic reactors at the turn of atomic power plant in the city of Kyiv was damaged and there is speculation in Moscow that people were injured and may have died the cow lot of people would say Chernobyl is among the most toxic places in the world certainly thirty years in the life of nuclear contamination is not a very long time Holly Morris is a filmmaker who's been into trouble it said the commission's nuclear power plant in present day Ukraine were thirty years ago in April twenty six nineteen eighty six something went very very wrong the accident actually because of Soviet times and there's a lot of secrecy there wasn't like hey the guy's hello world we weaved a Saturday accident they kept it under wraps and Aman in fact it was a nuclear power plant in Sweden radiation monitors in Sweden and Finland this morning are showing unusually high readings weather alarm started going off at the moment the source of those emissions is a mystery but speculation has arisen of a nuclear power plant accident inside the Soviet Union and for days after Russian officials denied how bad it actually was the basis for an official announcement from the console been as this has been an accident at the end of the atomic Power Station one of the atomic The Russian officials said the loss of life was minimal this evening the Soviet TV repeated the claim that only two people have died they assured viewers all is under control all the while in the area around the Chernobyl plant the nearest town to the plant is called preppy it which is essentially the company town everyone there was evacuated they were told they would be gone for three days and they were loaded into buses and and taken away and of course they never returned home again the accident caused a nuclear fire that burned for more than a week dozens of workers died at the plant that day and in the years to come thousands more people in the area would die from thyroid cancer and even to this day the area where they lived known as the exclusion zone remains empty well almost the U of L A has the voice is a woman from the film Holly Morris made it's called the bush because of Chernobyl about Bush was actually the Russian word for grandmother the this published in Holly film room visits her family's plot in a cemetery to place her relatives one by one mom who was coming here I sit in with you she's just a hundred women who were allowed back into the area around Chernobyl shortly after the accident and they've lived there ever sense now it's important remember in terms of their survival as they were in their fifties at the time of the accident and the older you are the less detrimental effects of radiation is so the young people of Chernobyl who of course were surely not allowed to return to those villages and really took the brunt of the contamination of the time here's a tidbit read so why make such a dangerous choice here's Holly on the Ted stage Chernobyl is one of the most toxic places on earth this soil the water the air are all contaminated and the nuclear fire that burned for eleven days back in nineteen eighty six belief or released four hundred times as much radiation as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima the point being no human being should be living anywhere near the dead zone but they are and almost all of them are women the men having died off earlier in part to over use of to over use of alcohol cigarettes and not radiation hundreds of thousands of people were evacuated the time of the accident but not everybody accepted that fate these are the last survivors of the group who defied authorities and would seem common sense and return to their ancestral homes inside the zone as one woman put it to a soldier who was trying to evacuate her for a second time shoot me and dig the grave otherwise I'm going home why would they return to such deadly land were they unaware are crazy enough to ignore them or both the thing is they see their lives and the risk they run decidedly differently the the So OK to move back and you decide to tell the story and and and when you encounter these women was a life like it you know you you come upon a village like there's a woman in the film name Hannah several yy and I remember my first time I was going to the village it's beautiful the uh yeah it's it's a village that you might think of fat from the Amboy one hundred years ago right there's there's beautiful cottage is no cars there so I think when blowing the lightest lovely skein of BFL and and the women themselves are all have these beautiful gardens you know it's strangely bucolic someone and you're passing a band and collapsing houses in villages along the way but then you show up it Hanna's hour on his house and you're like and you see the service has sprightly woman welcome you an officer off a new moon shining down planes and the you're like Wow I'm in the Chernobyl exclusion zone yet this experience is happening by fouling our modern lives are filled with convenience and technology shrink wrapped vegetables and crystal clear swimming pools and plastic bags but increasingly those things are making our world and our bodies more toxic the show and explore some of the toxins in our environments our food even toxins are known bodies produce and what we might be able to do about it the woman of his own have chosen to live in a contaminated environment they had a choice and that kind of choice is going to be seen all over the world and decades to come because environmental disasters are going to continue to happen and it's not going to be realistic or maybe even the choice of people who live in those areas to leave so the booth because of Chernobyl you know our early end and curious example of this the bar on the Bush years later and how they've survived even thrived for sale on the first the worst nuclear accident history is one thing but what the toxins we all encounter every single day mean we're exposed to chemicals all the time they're all around us yeah by the way this is Doctor Tyrone Hayes of tyrants fight as you know is that nobody has a homey Doctor Lister Koppel meal from the re run is a biologist at the University of California at Berkeley and my research focuses on India can disrupting chemicals in the environment and disrupting chemicals describe the whole group of chemicals that mimic the body's natural hormones like estrogen or testosterone and it turns out those chemicals are all kinds of stuff we use everyday and food food packaging cleaning products baby products toys even in water I mean what are the most troubling things as most of the chemicals we use we know very very little about but we knew even less about than twenty years ago that was when Tehran began studying one particular chemical called at regime and that real quick what is was edges in used for it's a nervous eye for example is mostly used on corn in this country so you would spray after seeing all of the soil so that nothing grows up and we plant the corn and there's nothing that there's no weeds to compete with the corn the season for St it's also used on golf courses and in some states it can be used on your lawn so how are humans exposed actors in advising exposure for humans is mostly due to drinking water the air and in some of the earliest studies on that regime and whether it was the kind of chemical that could throw natural hormones and lack in the way he did this was my studying frogs and fittings are of particular interest because they have to deal with the aquatic environment they have to do with terrestrial environment to cultivate amazing transitions whether completely fall to the environment that can regulate the temperature when are developing embryos they have no placenta no egg shells to protect them from the environment so Ron took a bunch of fried eggs and expose them to actors and eventually he came up with some pretty surprising results which he described on the Ted stage we were a bit surprised when we found out that when we exposed fraud to very low levels of after zero point one part per billion that it produced animals that look like this this these are the SEC that go in and save an animal that has two testers two ovaries another large test is more ovaries which is not normal the the even for amphibians and some cases in other species like the North American leopard frog which show that males exposed at Racine eggs in a test is in you can see the large field to peg bursting through the surface of this male's Texas we show that some of these animals are exposed to after seeing some of the males grow up and completely become females so these are actually two brothers concert meaning a relationship and not only do these genetic males mate with other males they actually have the capacity to lay eggs even though their genetic males what we propose and what we've now generate support for that magazine is doing is wreaking havoc causing hormone imbalance normal attest to make testosterone the male hormone but after seeing does as it turns on an enzyme fuel aroma taste that converts testosterone into estrogen as a result these expose males lose their testosterone or chemically castrated and are subsequently famine eyes because now they're making the female hormone the batch and believable and Regis like leaving the frogs magazine and just exposing them to crazy levels of it oh no it's my crazy levels we we're exposing the levels that you can find in rainwater so if you hike with his contentment is most common contaminate drinking water and come most common contaminants of groundwater so I'm assuming after the study that you did came out it was banned in the US though it was banned in the US this is now banned in the US the US EPA was only now has the EPA come out a report saying that after scene is a threat to our life and they have another report coming out where they review its effects on humans and in California prop sixty five that has just been labeled a reproductive toxin so the European Union denied regulatory approval for after seeing Ali back in two thousand to the the in so yeah as a result of Tehran's research the EU and the actress the NUS lab scientists are still split on whether actors in a safe whether it's as dangerous as Tehran claims and full disclosure some of his studies have been hard to replicate but if he's right what you mean for humans the hair on his returns in just a minute and show the toxic guy rise near listening to the Ted Radio Hour from NPR the are lol Hey Everyone Just a quick thanks to two of our sponsors who help keep this podcast going first to National Geographic Channel are proud to present a new season of the Emmy Award winning documentary van Series years of living dangerously the show tackles the many challenges of climate change with first hand reports from around the globe featuring Hollywood's biggest names out Schwarzenegger Don Cheadle David Letterman and more explore urgent issues and possible solutions years of living dangerously premiere Sunday October thirty and eight National Geographic Channel thanks also to buy shares because the best preparation for tomorrow is building their future today so whatever you're inspired to build in life this is the time to make it possible I shares by BlackRock inspired to build its the Ted Radio Hour from NPR and I rise today toxic and we're just hearing from UC Berkeley biologist Tyrone Hayes about his research on the herbicide at regime and he found that male frogs when exposed to at regime they grew ovaries and started to produce eggs which was very strange and abnormal now the obvious question is What does this mean for humans right well frogs are different than humans in many ways First of all they're especially vulnerable before they're born because they hatch from eggs and softer lines without any real shell and humans like most mammals in utero are nourished and protected by the placenta which helps remove waste and toxins from the fetus it turns out that the speech instructor that separates us from other animals to placenta cannot evolve or adapt fast enough because of the rate that were generating new chemicals that it's never seen before his her own again on the Ted stage the evidence of that is that studies in rats again with after the show that the hormone imbalance that has injuries cause abortion because maintaining a pregnancy is dependent on hormones though they don't abort after seeing causes impaired memory or breast development and expose daughters in utero so that the press don't develop properly and as a result when those rat screw up their pups experience retarded growth and development because they can't make enough milk to nurse their pups given the life of many of these chemicals years dozens of years that means that we right now are affecting the health of our grandchildren's grandchildren by things that were putting into the environment today and this is not as philosophical it's already known the chemicals like best is still strong in estrogen PCs DT cross the placenta and effectively determine the likelihood of developing breast cancer obesity and diabetes already when the babies in the womb in addition to that after the babies for other unique invention as mammals that we nurse our offspring after they're born we already know the chemicals like DDT and DS and at Racine can also pass over and knelt again affecting our babies even after they're born so I have these chemicals get into milk in the first place well they're everywhere flame retardant and furniture action and meat products BPA in food packaging and yeah those chemicals do affect animals but it's still hard to say what effect they can have on us you can't do a controlled experiment in humans you can only say we are expose this and you have this symptom of this condition that's associated with the chemical in Kentucky for example women who used well water that contained at regime were more likely to develop breast cancer that doesn't mean at Racine causes the cancer but it does mean he can be linked to what we see in rats for example is that after seeing increases estrogen decreases testosterone increases estrogen and so if you get breast cancer which is estrogen dependent estrogen drives the cancer so to speak at the scene itself may not be causing the cancer because of this hormone imbalance creates a physiological environment that's conducive to breast cancer promotes breast cancer in the U so again this is controversial and it's hard to nail down the exact toxicity of chemicals like at regime but a growing number of scientists including Tyrone Hayes say that obesity diabetes breast cancer prostate cancer and even some birth defects can be linked to exposure to these kinds of chemicals that are associated with at least three perfect humans get a thesis with contestants on the outside the body quail a tree she was a hole in the baby's face and now for male genitals so when exposed to chemical that decreases testosterone increases estrogen and every animal that has been studied you get a baby looks like it has too little testosterone and too much estrogen to move into a babbling just dislike that said like had we deal with this what would we do but how we protect ourselves I think being informed I think making informed decisions about things that you purchase I think I'm being politically involved and we can make choices as the phrase I've heard his vote with our dollars and you know decide the time to buy this product but not this product in terms of who we elect in terms of what the environmental policy for local government representatives are and I think we need to refocus our efforts are Karen Hayes is a biologist at UC Berkeley you can see his entire talk which he did with filmmaker Penelope Jagger such a For that kind of have these toxins are actually inside our bodies well that's what environmental activist and leap and decided to find out I cat eating food mostly from the back garden my parents i sae hugely keen garden as you are not eating processed food I was eating crazy I was the one who showed up in my friend's birthday party with like freshly pulled beetroot with it sprout still attached yet my friends whenever else showed up with about the Java Sea are thinking like my body is not exactly loaded with toxic chemicals exactly we but recently we decided to have her blood tested for thirty five toxic chemicals that are banned by the United Nations and stays thirty five chemicals be tested full we found twenty nine of them inside my body and that included traces of pesticides and flame are times I should find a hint that the levels of chemicals I have inside me and not alarmingly high I need to be immediately concerned about my health for me it's more of a scary indicates the direction they're heading the As we just heard from Karen Hayes there are times of ways these chemicals get into our bodies and Emilie is focused on just one of those ways through plastics to think about how much plastic we use everyday a plastic fork a phone little baggies for sandwiches this smell of a new shower curtain I love that smell like that's that's not good one problem with plastic it's made to last a very very long time and then we go and design products like plastic bags and plastic water bottles the design to bees just wants out of the material is designed to last had a lot of great options for how to deal with all that plastic and Lee explained why on the Ted stage I tend to send think that we ease actually gets recycled and that members say they are because plastic is really a tear that we give to hundreds of different materials they will have different properties and to give in these properties they need different chemical stretches but when you recycle something the face the have to do a separate out all these different types of plastic me to clean them and it's a very lengthy and expensive process and it's much much cheaper to take vege in plastic and make new products from scratch and say Oh he instead we see a lot of this plastic ankle and fell and wholesale eight million times of it and you'll be washing down streams down rivers and waterways and eventually everything runs downhill to the ocean are a couple of years ago family when our boat trip organized by environmental activists to see the problem firsthand we would be in a part of the ocean thousand miles from the nearest human being in the middle of the Pacific and we did see everything you see plastic bags and plastic fragments of washing Boss Cat in the middle of the lead in the middle of the ocean you jump in for a swim and find a toothbrush in a just tightly boggles my mind about it how we have managed to justice but yes a waste literally across the hood of our planet from the But it wasn't until it put a fine net into the ocean when they realized there is a much bigger problem the bigger problem was actually the smaller pieces let me bring McNabb back on deck ten that saw inside out this is what we find we find thousands of tiny fragments of plastic small and then your little fingernail what we call micro plastics and Mesa past that cannot ration is actually that big when we get the samples on board we see the same thing all the way from the tropics to the update and it's moments like there's this fine mess of plastic pieces that just vary in concentration across a whole ocean and say Let me get the samples back on board the next thing we have to do is analyze them and work out what's plastic London and it made me wonder how the fish would co working out with the food in what was and all and then we stop finding things like fishing with actually fragments the inside and some of the overwhelm the win so basically these toxins that are going into the fish are just like climbing up the food yes in fact a sale the fact that when that plastic and so much of it does and if a nation we are now finding and a lot of tough for me that the bigger marine mammals that you would've seen in the media Wales been washed at temples being found with stomachs full of plastic it is rather scary that we know that this plastic which has a lot of toxic chemicals that actually getting into the feature and of course we're at the top of him so I know you take groups out to show them the effects of plastic in our environment yet you also do the same blood tests for people in those groups and so are you finding that everyone knew test full of toxins say you before you get too depressed and we did have some interesting results from that didi the derivative of DDT are inside our bodies and of the whole group that we was something we found that one of our members that the group had very very high levels of deed way above the national average and the rest of ass way below the national average and she was actually sixty seven years old and the anyone of us who was alive prior to nineteen seventy two prior to that ban of DDT what we can kind of drool from that's small sector result is that those of us who have just being living pace the ban and have actually got very little of the chemical inside us say when we do decide to make a change only in full said Relay as a global community then we can see positive results and now embodies the pen is an environmental activist you can see her full talk at Ted that NPR dot org They show we're talking about things that are toxic and so far we've heard about toxins like pollution and industrial chemicals but for scientists like Jeff aisle if I'm an assistant professor at Oregon Health and Science University eight action can be something in the cells of your own body cells are like little engines you know they burnt sugar and the use of oxygen and in the process they produce all kinds of waste the like carbon dioxide which is toxic in certain amounts and that's not all ammonia is a molecule that your cells produce ammonia like you know Stephen Glass cleaner is also a chemical byproduct of your metabolism yes there's simple molecules like Abba there's even more damaging more complex molecules like certain proteins that can be produced that can have toxic effects they built a high enough levels the And yet every cell in your body produces these toxins good news is we have organs to process and get rid of them but there's one place in your body where toxins are much much more dangerous your brain your brain has its own way of dealing with toxins so it has something called the blood brain barrier which is this It's like a castle wall that was the brain and spinal cord in and walls everything else from the rest your body how can so that ceiling of the of the brain behind this barrier creates another problem well how do you deal with toxins that are made inside the castle we the Because remember every cell in the body produces a tiny amount of toxic waste even in the cells inside your brain sot hat we get rid of that here's Jeff on that had Stage two thousand years ago Galen one of the most common medical researchers at the ancient world propose that while we're awake our brains motive force its juice would flow out to all the other parts the body animating them believing the brain all dried up and he thought that when we sleep all this moisture that filled the rest of the body would come rushing back re hydrating the brain and refreshing the mind not some completely ridiculous to us now Guillen was simply trying to explain something about sleep that we all deal with everyday see we all know based on our own experience that when you sleep it clears your mind and when you don't sleep these are mine murky but what we know a great deal more about sleep now than when Guillen was around we still haven't understood why does that sleep of all of our activities has this incredible restorative function for the mind I want to tell you about some recent research may shed on this quest we found that sleep may actually be kind of elegant design solution to some of the brain's most basic needs and one of those needs flushing out toxins so you can think of the brain sort of as almost like a big sponge trade for the sponge acts differently depending on whether you're awake or asleep what appears to happen is when your awake if you were to say run water over that sponge it's like if you had a very dense sponge at very small gaps that ran through it and very little of the water and actually wash through the sponge that's because when you're awake brain cells seem to be packed tightly together there's not a lot of space between them but if that's been suddenly underwent a change for all the gaps in between suddenly opened up all the sudden new fluid is is relatively free to move through the and your brain it has exactly the fluid to do that it's called CSF or cerebral spinal fluid or CSF is this really incredible clear fluid that is almost completely protein free so it's it's like this very clean
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