Sydney: Some 83,000 synthetic chemicals circulate freely in water, soil, air, wildlife, food and manufactured goods, posing unknown threats to human and environmental health, scientists warn.
The warning has been issued by one of most distinguished soil scientists, Ravi Naidu, professor at the University of South Australia and the CRC for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment (CRC CARE).
"When people think of the impact of human activity on global systems, they tend to think mainly of greenhouse gases, urban air pollution or nutrient pollution of water bodies - but in fact there is a far wider array of toxic substances now in the earth system circulation," said Naidu, according to a CRC CARE statement.
"And research in the US, Europe and China is finding many babies are now born contaminated, while mothers are unknowingly passing man-made carcinogens and other toxins to their babies in maternal milk," said Naidu.
"The water beneath most of our great cities is so contaminated it is often undrinkable. Pesticides and `gender-bender` compounds are now quite commonly found in the food chain and public water supplies," said Naidu.
"The first step in protecting our own health and that of all living species, is to understand what is really going on globally - and to do that we need a worldwide team of the best scientists in the field."
"The proposed Global Contamination Research Initiative GCRI is envisioned as a global scientific partnership that will bring an international focus to an issue which affects all people, everywhere, but has largely gone under the radar," said Naidu.
"For example Chinese studies have shown how toxic electronic waste, generated in Europe or US, can travel to China for unregulated re-processing, then go back again to reach consumers in Europe in foods produced with contaminated soil or water, all in a matter of months."
Naidu has just been made a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), for "efforts on behalf of the advancement of science or its applications (which) are scientifically or socially distinguished."