Over the past eighty years, tens of thousands of chemical substances have been manufactured. Chemical preservatives have been added to food and cosmetics. Pesticides have been synthe- sized to increase agricultural production. Substances have been made to waterproof furniture and
clothes, while others make plastic either more pliable or more solid. Countless other products have been incorporated into construction materials to prevent mould build-up or oxidization. These subs- tances are made for specific end-use applications, yet they inevitably find their way into the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat. Today, all humans on the planet are contaminated to varying degrees by these substances. Between one hundred to three hundred artificial chemicals can be found in the human body.
The scientific community was first alerted in the 1960s about the harmful effects of pesticides on the reproduction cycle of certain animals. Yet, only recently have we begun to see a link between this soup of substances and chronic illnesses such as heart and lung diseases, type 2 diabetes, obesity, declining fertility and learning disabilities in children, to name but a few.
We used to think fetuses were protected from these contaminants. But at birth, babies have already inherited a significant amount of contaminants from their mothers. We believe that in the near future, “environmental” illnesses will become more common, since they are provoked by exposure to ubiqui- tous toxic substances in our daily environment and workplaces.
Up to now, environmental concerns have focused on fish in rivers, endangered species, forests, water and climate. As if “the environment” was something external to us. Today we realize that we are absorbing environmental pollution.
During this intensive development and commercialization of chemical products and different techno- logies, some people have stepped forward complaining of health issues and problems linked to expo- sure to chemical substances, biological material (mould) or electromagnetic radiation. This is when we began to talk about environmental sensitivities. “Sensitivities” because they concern symptoms that appear with very low exposures, at levels where most people feel no ill effects. “Environmental” because it refers to contaminants that are ubiquitous in the environment.