Monday, November 12, 2007

Is It In Us?

by the Commonweal Biomonitoring Resource Center and the Body Burden Work Group

From the Executive Summary:

Toxic chemicals from everyday products contaminate the bodies of every person in this country. Shower curtains, water bottles, baby bottles, toys, shampoo, cosmetics, couch cushions, computers, and hundreds of other common products that ordinary people use every day contain toxic chemical ingredients that leach out of the products and into our bodies.

Thirty-five Americans from seven states participated in a national biomonitoring project in the spring of 2007. This is the broadest non-governmental project of its kind to measure toxic chemicals in the bodies of average Americans.

Each participant was tested for contamination by twenty toxic chemicals from three chemical families: phthalates, bisphenol A, and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs).

The project found toxic chemicals in every person tested.

  • All 35 participants had at least 7 of the 20 chemicals in their bodies.
  • All 33 participants who contributed urine samples had phthalates in their bodies.
  • All 33 participants who contributed urine samples had bisphenol A in their urine.
  • All 35 participants had six types of PBDEs in their bodies, and all but one had decaBDE.
Human and animal studies link the three families of chemicals detected in this project to birth defects, asthma, cancer, learning disabilities, and other health impacts. For some toxic chemicals, the levels found in people are near or above levels linked to health impacts in laboratory animals. Consider that scientists estimate that 95% of Americans are contaminated with bisphenol A at levels thought to cause harm in laboratory animals.

Our nation’s chemical safety system has failed. Three-quarters of the 80,000 chemicals in commerce today have not been tested for safety.We know next to nothing about how the interactions of multiple chemicals may affect our health. Manufacturers of products containing known toxics are not even required to list those contents on the label.

The problem is a Jurassic-era law regulating space-age chemicals. The federal Toxic Substances Control Act was enacted in 1976 and has not been updated to reflect recent research, including evidence that even tiny doses of toxic chemicals may cause harm. U.S. standards are so weak that even well-known toxic hazards, like asbestos and lead, are not banned from commerce.

No one can shop, eat or exercise his or her way to a body free from toxic chemicals. We shouldn’t be exposed to unnecessary, dangerous chemicals as we go about our daily routines. We can improve our health and the health of our communities by adopting these common sense policies, which are already advancing at the state and federal levels:

  • Phase-out the most harmful chemicals and switch to safer alternatives;
  • Require that all chemicals are screened for safety and that toxicity data and product ingredients be made publicly available;
  • Promote the development of safer alternatives and environmentally friendly “green” technologies;
  • Protect workers and communities where toxic chemicals are produced, used, and disposed.

Americans need a new, comprehensive federal policy to raise the standards governing chemical use in society. Some states are taking the lead to create new solutions that could be applied nationally. To learn more about what is happening in your state or in Congress, visit

© 2007 Coming Clean


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