Anita Roddick, long-time social justice activist, has said, "If you think small things can't make a difference, you've never been to bed with a mosquito." She was pointing out that major change can be inspired by pesky individuals who buzz enough ears. For the last eleven years, one such self-professed pesky person has been sounding the alarm in the Bitterroot and has been swatted at by a gambit of nay-sayers from local ranchers to public officials. Judy Hoy has spent twelve years and countless hours painstakingly recording data.
One of the first rules of science is observation. After viewing over 1000 white-tailed deer up close and personal, from 1970 to 2006, Judy is more than qualified as an observer. She takes observation beyond the cursory look-see level and into the ultra-scientific level by meticulously collecting and measuring and recording and dissecting and photographing the details. In doing so, Judy discovered some alarming trends. Since 1996, she has recorded a radical increase in the incidence of malformations in the Bitterroot Valley, namely in wild ungulates (four-stomached animals such as white-tailed deer, elk, mule deer, etc.), but also in domestic ungulates (cattle, goats, sheep, etc.), and also, in a wide spectrum of other creatures brought to her over the years.
Hoy has been a wildlife rehabilitator in Montana since 1969. In the mid-70s, Judy gave up teaching elementary school in Missoula. After moving to the Bitterroot in 1979, she channeled all her efforts into the Bitterroot Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. Bob Hoy, Judy's husband and a biologist, spent his professional life as a game warden for Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP); part of his duties demanded that he collect road kills, some of which Judy had permission to feed to her rehabilitating creatures. Thus, Judy found herself in the unique position of seeing a wide variety of sick, wounded, dying or dead animals. Many people would not have the stomach for this. Most people would not have the patience or tenderness to splint broken bird legs or to hand feed baby robins all day long or to cut up dead deer for wounded or orphaned meat eaters. Even more folks would not have the courage to euthanize the too far gone. Judy has the tenacity to accomplish all of these tasks with great alacrity. In fact, she got so adept at these tasks over forty years that she became clinical about her observations. When she began to see a spiking trend of malformations, she searched for answers, all the while recording her findings. Judy's research was collected over a long period of time, more than sufficient to establish a credible trend. Despite her lack of scientific degree and her lack of a million-dollar laboratory, she became the first to say, "We have a problem here."
Like Rachel Carson (who blew the whistle on the environmental genocide caused by DDT and 2,4,5-T in the 50s and 60s), Judy Hoy began to produce a bevy of research, which she unleashed on the local populace with very mixed results. She fills up the back of her mini-van with boxes of skulls, and preserved genitalia, and poster boards covered with post-mortem pictures of malformed creatures and heads for the Ravalli County Museum, the local Board of Health, high schools, local clubs, anyone willing to listen. At one of her high school presentations, I heard one bubble popping, nail filing teenage girl say to another in disgust after passing a dried specimen to the kid behind her, "Who cares about deer scrotums?" Conversely, a local VFW member who heard Judy called the seeming lack of concern for this topic "a travesty." She didn't stop in the local arena.
And the officials took careful consideration of the materials she divulged. NOT. In fact, this began the Age of Debunking for Judy; she was barraged by disbelief, discredited, personally slandered, outright guffawed at and even the focus of hate-mongering. A friend told Judy that when her name came up at a local diner someone said, "I should just shoot that bitch."
Such defamation might have shut down some people, not Judy. She recalls how this chapter of her life began: "It started with Buck Number Nine. We called him that because he was the ninth buck we had seen with radically malformed genitalia. John Firebaugh (the Missoula biologist for FWP at the time) told me to save the malformed ones I saw and he would take them to the state lab." Firebaugh looked at Number Nine and confirmed its obvious abnormalities before the deer was delivered to the state lab along with a normal male of the same age. But when Firebaugh opened the lab report from the state, in Judy's presence, they were both surprised to read that the state professionals thought Number Nine's malformations were caused by "vehicular impact."
"I still have the pictures of Number Nine. He had half of a scrotum, his left testicle was permanently located directly in front of the right, the penis sheath was abnormally short, all of the genitalia was three inches from his navel when it should be six to eight inches from his navel, and he had the teats of a yearling doe. This was caused by impact?" It is here that Judy's inner Lorax (Dr. Seuss's bristly truth-sayer) comes to life. She is intolerant of ignorance and lack of forethought and her hackles stand at attention when it comes to anthropocentrism. This focus on ourselves has blurred our ability to recognize that what we consider to be "lesser species" are indicators of our own maladies, even though scientists have been talking about "indicator species" for a very long time.
In a book entitled "Living Downstream" (by Sandra Steingraber published in 1997) animals, the perpetual canaries in our mine shafts, indicate what might be in store for human animals. But it may actually be worse for us because of "biomagnification," says scientist Steingraber. What "biomagnification" means is that as a chemical moves up the food chain, the chemical becomes more, not less, potent.
Like the Lorax, Judy Hoy popped from a fog of organo-chlorine chemicals, and asked loudly and persistently, "Who speaks for the white-tailed deer, the magpie, the marmots, the bees?" After John Firebaugh looked at the lab results, he said "three times," according to Judy, "I can't believe they said that. Why on earth would they say that?" Then, as Judy puts it, he looked "like a deer in the headlights before he permanently clammed up." Firebaugh, thereafter without comment, referred Judy to the state lab with every new finding.
The FWP state lab's scientists claimed that Judy's specimens were too depreciated to get a good look at (Judy says they were in excellent condition, having been frozen), or that she had not properly taken the specimens apart (after having conducted over 600 biopsies), or that she had not determined their age correctly. According to Judy, the last claim in particular is easily disproved, in writing, in the study Judy published where she explains how she uses "tooth eruption" to age animals, the very same method used by FWP. "I learned this aging technique from a college wildlife biology text," she tells me.
In one e-mail to Patti Eldredge of the Ravalli County Board of Health (BOH), Keith Aune, FWP's Head of Research, claims Judy's finding are nothing more than a reporting of "anatomical variation." He states, "No professional has determined that the perfect testes are absolutely bilateral and absolutely symettrical [sic] (they simply are not---I can testify to the issue in human males from years in the gym)." Aune was not the only scientist who looked at "Judy's stuff", as Aune referred to her specimens and documentation. Neil Anderson, FWP's Lab Supervisor who wrote an e-mail to Patti Eldredge in November of 2006, determined that the malformed specimens sent in after Number Nine, thirty-nine in all, could be "explained by normal variation." Both Aune and Anderson were the same scientists who said Buck Number Nine's malformations were caused by "vehicular impact."
Yet, three years prior to these e-mails, the "Journal of Environmental Biology" found her information so compelling that they published Judy's study entitled, "Genital abnormalities in white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in west-central Montana: Pesticide exposure as a possible cause" (2002). Her co-authors were Bob Hoy, Douglas Seba (an independent Marine Scientist from Florida), and Theodore Kerstetter (from Humboldt State University). Their study suggests that endocrine-disrupting compounds (EDCs), such as organochlorines, should be considered as a possible cause for the malformations Judy had recorded. A study from "Advances in Toxicology" in 1992 confirms that "if exposure to one or more of these EDC's occurs in gestation during critical periods of organ development, a variety of developmental abnormalities can result."
Judy's study draws a time correlation between the arrival of the chemical Chlorothalonil and the malformations, which began for the first time the next spring. Cholorthalonil, in a warm moist place "like in the stomach or in the air," breaks down into two nitriles, one of which is thirty times more toxic than the parent product which is marketed as Bravo. Nitriles are the toxic equivalent of cyanide. Bravo and other like fungicides are liberally applied to potatoes in Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. In March of 1999, Chlorothalonil was found in water and Ponderosa pine needle samples in the Bitterroot.
In a meeting held after Judy's study was published, FWP officials and scientists (including Aune and Anderson) maintained their position that the malformations reported were within the realm of "normal variation" and that no formal study was necessary.
One person present at that meeting who can confirm the prevalence of malformations is Gary Haas, owner of Beetleworks in Florence. Haas, a Wildlife Biology graduate from the University of Montana, has been studying and preparing skulls as a business for fifteen years. "I see thousands of skulls a year. One in three skulls I see now has underbite." He reports cases of radical overbite as well, in which case "the incisors have been worn down to almost nothing because they don't contact the pad." Gary has been speaking with local taxidermists who also confirm that malformations are making their jobs harder because they have to "get the mouth to close" in order to mount the animals.
Judy's new study, co-authored by Gary Haas and Bob Hoy, focuses on "maxillary underdevelopment" in white-tailed deer, which means that the upper jaw is shorter (with a narrow palate) than the lower. This underbite (or prognathism) and narrow palate makes it hard, if not impossible, for ungulates to graze efficiently because the lower front teeth do not contact the upper pad. This congenital malformation is noted in all studies concerning Congenital Fetal Hypothyroidism in domestic grazing animals, thus appearing to be a defining symptom. And this is not just affecting a few members of the wild populations. The new study concludes that the rate of maxillary underdevelopment has gone from 7% (from 1995 through 1998) to 35% (from 1999 through 2006) in white-tail deer alone and the incidence is higher in smaller samples of elk, mule deer and pronghorn antelope killed by hunters in 2005 and 2006.
"But there hasn't been an epidemic of underbite in children in the Bitterroot," someone is bound to say. However, there are an increasing number of children with underbite here and around the globe. The Weston A. Price Foundation, which was founded by a dentist to try to find the cause for the spiking number of underbite cases, says there is an epidemic of underbite in children worldwide. Judy has written an article entitled "Clouds of Death" for the Weston A. Price Foundation and this article can be accessed by visiting the foundation website: www.westonaprice.org\envtoxins\clouds.html.
Until recently, Judy was not able to pinpoint what was causing the prognathism or the genital malformations. But she had an educated guess, based upon the wildlife she has treated that have been exposed to pesticides and herbicides; there was an obvious hormone (endocrine) disruption occurring. Judy combed through countless scientific studies in order to find similar symptoms. Having thoroughly dissected multiple specimens, she determined that many had underdeveloped thymus glands or thymus glands that were missing entirely (premature atrophy). The thymus plays a crucial role in the survival of all young mammals. It is responsible for "training" T-cells that then travel throughout the body countering potential health threats (such as bacteria and viruses) as they arise. If the thymus is compromised, then the T-cells don't learn what they are supposed to do and cannot counter such threats. Judy calls the thymus "a school for T-cells" and if the T-cells are not learning what to do in school, they are not helping the body. In fact, if they are confused, they can use their powers against you causing autoimmune disorders such as diabetes, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, myasthenia gravis (chronic muscle weakness) and many others.
The real clue for Judy was that some of the ungulates she dissected with underbite had normal thymuses. This meant that the abnormal thymuses must not be the cause of the underbite. So she kept searching journals, with the help of her scientist sister, until she located the exact symptoms she had been witnessing for 12 years. These malformations were indicative of a condition called Congenital Fetal Hypothyroidism. Now she wonders if the thymus isn't being compromised by this condition. "It's just a hypothesis based on what I know so far," says this self-trained scientist.
"One of the problems has been that every study relating to this condition goes by a different name," says Judy. In horses, it's called "Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome," "Early Foal Loss (EFL)," "Hypothyroid Syndrome in Foals," and CHD (Congenital Hypothyroidism Dismaturity); in cattle, it's Weak Calf Syndrome; one study about goats refers to this condition as "prenatal toxicity;" Chronic Wasting Syndrome (not Chronic Wasting Disease) in wild animals has the same symptoms. Judy surmises that there should be a more general title and study that addresses the prevalence of "congenital fetal hypothyroidism." In ungulates the defining symptoms are as follows: underdeveloped skull, upper jaw and palate, inability to regulate body heat, crooked leg bones, contracted tendons, herniated umbilicus (meaning the belly button does not close), inability to nurse, weak and/or swollen joints, hair that fails to develop normally and acute malaise. The studies that Judy unearthed also link elevated cholesterol and diabetes and obesity to fetal hypothyroidism.
It was the "inability to nurse" that led Judy to the therapy she found works to counter hypothyroidism in baby "critters," as she refers to her frequent patients. But it didn't start with her trying to treat hypothyroidism because she had yet to discover that this was the problem. In 1998, a neighbor, Jean Atthowe, suggested that she try the Homeopathic Cell Salt, Calc. Phos. 6X, a homeopathic combination of calcium and phosphate in a dissolving tablet, on the birds she was rehabilitating in order to strengthen their bones and make them heal faster. This therapy worked so well on the birds that Judy thought she would try it on a five-day-old fawn she called Firefly, named this because her face was so malformed "she looked like a bug." "She was really ugly," recalls Judy with a chuckle.
Firefly exhibited the classic signs of lactose intolerance. "She acted like I had kicked her in the stomach when I fed her," says Judy. This fawn also had severe underbite. "Her tummy problems seemed to immediately disappear following the first couple feedings with the milk and cell salts," and she became a typically lusty nursing white-tail. After three weeks of feeding Firefly milk with cell salts every three hours, Judy recalls being "shocked" to discover that this fawn's bite had become normal. The underbite was gone. Following such incredible results, the reasons for which Judy had yet to discover, she began treating all the malformed babies with both Calc. Phos. 6X and Bioplasma (all 12 Cell Salts in one dissolving tablet) with stunning success, especially after adding common liquid electrolytes to the remedy (for creatures that don't drink milk, such as hatchling birds). In 2003, for instance, Judy raised eight fawns, seven of which had underbite until she treated them. When she released these fawns, all seven had normal bites.
"This is not magic," Judy says, "it's science. Communication between cells and the brain is reliant on the flow of electrons. Cell salts stimulate the electron flow so that the positively charged minerals (calcium, for instance) can readily go into the cells that need them." Depletion of electron flow causes the brain and nerves to miscommunicate with the cells and this means that the much-needed minerals, "especially calcium," says Judy, do not make it to the places where calcium is needed.
"All the vets I had talked to told me these animals could not be fixed without surgery," Judy says with exasperation, "but I know this works because I have seen it." Others have seen it too. Dan Severson, owner of Valley Drug in Stevensville, tells me he sells a lot of Calc. Phos. 6X and Bioplasma because Judy's message has reached so many folks. He also adds that he admires Judy because her first concern is for the animals, "human animals included." "She is not in this for the money," he adds. Dan feels Judy is driven by her love for the creatures she has cared for and by the desire to see change that will benefit all creatures.
Judy's experiences have confirmed for her that Homeopathic Cell Salts are able to help reverse several of the adverse effects of hypothyroidism and can enable physical change at a seemingly miraculous level. In the nine years since Judy began applying the Cell Salt therapy and telling others about it, she has challenged the speculation of some in her community. Others remain speculative. "Some people think I'm nuts," Judy says with a laugh.
Disbelief has not crippled Judy; rather, it has inspired her to reach out to other scientists and they are not poo-pooing her experience or her research. Veterinarians, including pathologists, oncologists, and toxicologists from outside of Montana who have been consulted by Judy, have verified that underdeveloped skull and jaw and underdevelopment of the external male parts are "congenital developmental malformations" because function is affected. They stated unequivocally that these problems were not "normal variations." They are adding to her arsenal of information and they are confirming for her that what she has documented is happening on a broader spectrum. Hypothyroidism is affecting animals in the Bitterroot, and British Columbia, and Kentucky, and Utah, and Idaho, says Judy, and it is imperative that we figure out what is causing this, who the offenders are, and how we can reduce the risk of what threatens to be epidemic in its proportions.
Rachel Carson, in a letter regarding environmental toxins, states that the biggest issue "is not acute toxicity, but cumulative poisoning." We are bombarded on a daily basis by nitrates (one of the biggest contributors to hypothyroidism) in our water, out of our tailpipes, in the air from coal-fired power plants far away, in our food, and so on. And these nitrates are bio-accumulating to levels far beyond the ten parts per million that the EPA says is allowable.
In other words, the EPA regulates what the allowable level of nitrates should be in the river but they are not accounting for bio-magnification or bio-accumulation. To use the white-tailed deer as an example, the deer gets nitrates in the water, it gets nitrates from the grass, and it breathes in nitrates in the form of pollution, daily. Then Chlorothalonil is sprayed liberally over several states to our West, the wind and the rain deposit this toxin here, and the deer's thyroid cannot process the toxins fast enough to keep up. Pregnant does and unborn fetuses, in their fragile developmental states, are especially vulnerable. We, too, are susceptible to the same type of overload.
According to Steingraber, as of 1995, there were 75,000 chemicals in commercial use with only 200 of these having been identified and regulated as carcinogens; only 400 of these chemicals have been assayed (studied) in the laboratory. Until we know for sure what the effects of chemicals are, singularly and in combination with other chemicals, we should be weary of glibly dousing our surroundings with them, most especially in a valley where the soil is so porous and the terrain so sloping that whatever chemicals hit the ground are destined to end up in the waterways and in the groundwater.
What does Judy want to happen? Foremost, she wants her information to be carefully considered, sooner rather than later. If she had her way this information would transform our presently sluggish response to offending chemicals and we, the people, would demand that whenever and wherever possible, steps will be taken to minimize release of hormone disrupting toxins into our over-extended water and air sheds in Ravalli County. Judy says an important step being considered right now is streamside setback Regulations. "No one's property rights should take precedence over the lives and health of our children," says Judy.
Judy would also like citizens to demand that chemicals go through rigorous testing before they are used. This ensures that all animal fetuses (including human animals), "are not the test subjects for toxins that are eventually banned for causing irreversible adverse health effects... A good start would be to demand that new more rigorous tests be done on Chlorothalonil," a likely cause of fetal hypothyroidism. Also, we must demand that local agencies respond to concerns from citizens, immediately after a crisis is brought to their attention.
Judy maintains, "We are maxing out the Bitterroot Valley's air and water sheds with regard to toxins. Toxins affect fetal life. As far as Congenital Fetal Hypothyroidism is concerned, the needle went into the red zone in 1994, and it has been going farther into the red zone each year since. Native Americans speak in terms of making choices for the next seven generations. What the critters are trying to tell us is that unwise and anthropocentric choices will compromise the normalcy, health, and survivability of generations to come."