UPDATED: Pete Myers on improving vampire food, at TEDx C'ville

UPDATED: Pete Myers on improving vampire food, at TEDx C'ville

What do vampires drink? Our blood. But we're turning it into a junk food, given the myriad chemical pollutants we're adding to it thanks to modern chemistry. Our founder & chief scientist talks about the serious, real-world consequences of that pollution.


Myers, founder of Environmental Health Sciences (publisher of EHN.org and DailyClimate.org), has spent his career studying the thousands of endocrine-disrupting chemicals infusing our products, our food, our household dust and our daily lives.

He spent 16 minutes Friday distilling that experience for TEDx Charlottesville.

In one experiment after another, Myers said, exposure to those compounds has produced frightening results in laboratory animals:

Two frogs, both brothers, able to mate because one frog was exposed at birth to Atrazine – a common, widely used herbicide – and developed a fully functioning womb, ovaries and female reproductive system.

Or a pair of middle-aged mice, both fed the same diet and subject to the same activity regimen. Except one is morbidly obese. That mouse was exposed in the womb to bisphenol A, a common plastic additive, at an exquisitely low dose – one part per billion (for perspective, the bottom pancake in a stack of pancakes 4,000 miles tall is one part per billion).


What's crazy, Myers noted, is that at high doses, bisphenol A and other compounds that alter our hormonal system have completely different effects. Mice exposed to a 1,000 parts-per-billion dose of BPA, for instance, lose weight.

"It's completely unpredictable," he told the TEDx audience on Friday.

The bigger problem, Myers added, is that these compounds today exist in almost everyone's blood at very low levels.

And rules governing chemical exposure rely on a concept developed in the 16th century: The dose makes the poison. Regulators testing chemical safety usually start with a high dose and work backwards with incrementally smaller doses until they see no effect. That's where they draw the safety line. "They never test low-dose exposure," Myers said.

It's a tale, in many ways, of ignorance and bad design decisions. But the impact is clear: "Those chemicals are linked to today's litany of chronic, non-communicable diseases," Myers said.

TEDx Charlottesville continues Friday with talks by National Geographic photographer Ami Vitale, impact investor and poker player Rafe Furst, and the world grove ensemble Baaba Seth.

Why we need new words for life in the Anthropocene

The Bureau of Linguistical Reality is assembling a new lexicon for people's experience of climate change and environmental upheaval, writes Richard Fisher.
Sunrise in the woods

Get our Good News newsletter

Get the best positive, solutions-oriented stories we've seen on the intersection of our health and environment, FREE every Tuesday in your inbox. Subscribe here today. Keep the change tomorrow.

Subscription-based e-bike hire
Allan Harris/Flickr

Subscription-based bike hire schemes on a roll

A growing number of people are choosing to hire a bicycle over a long period of time.
electric vehicle barriers to ownership
Mike Licht/Flickr

Is owning an electric vehicle getting easier in 2023?

Even if the numbers don’t quite show it, regional planner Jeff King knows the shift to electric vehicles is taking off, and quite rapidly.
us snow totals compared
NRCS Oregon/Flickr
Biden bans roads, logging in Alaska’s Tongass
Ian Collins/Flickr

Biden bans roads, logging in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest

The U.S. Forest Service rule restricts development on more than nine million acres in North America’s largest temperate rainforest, reversing a Trump decision.

Clean-energy push puts abandoned Philippine nuclear plant back in spotlight

President Marcos looks to his father’s nuclear project, once dogged by scandal and safety concerns, as a solution to fossil-fuel challenges.

Tax breaks to help you make your home more energy-efficient this year

You can make your home more energy-efficient this year with the federal government picking up at least some of the tab on everything from stoves to EVs.
From our Newsroom
oil and gas wells pollution

What happens if the largest owner of oil and gas wells in the US goes bankrupt?

Diversified Energy’s liabilities exceed its assets, according to a new report, sparking concerns about whether taxpayers will wind up paying to plug its 70,000 wells.

Paul Ehrlich

Paul Ehrlich: A journey through science and politics

In his new book, the famous scientist reflects on an unparalleled career on our fascinating, ever-changing planet.

oil and gas california environmental justice

Will California’s new oil and gas laws protect people from toxic pollution?

California will soon have the largest oil drilling setbacks in the U.S. Experts say other states can learn from this move.

popular stories 2022

Our 5 most popular reads from 2022

A corpse, woodworking dangers, plastic titans ... revisit the stories that stuck with our readers this past year.

Pittsburgh environmental

What I learned reporting on environmental health in Pittsburgh in 2022

For a lot of people, 2022 felt like the first “normal” year since 2020. It didn’t for me.

Stay informed: sign up for The Daily Climate newsletter
Top news on climate impacts, solutions, politics, drivers. Delivered to your inbox week days.