Thanks to the industrial revolution, there are now more than 85,000 chemicals registered with the U.S. government, and about 1,000 new chemicals are added every year.
Hundreds of Chemicals in Your Body
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released its Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, 2009, the most comprehensive assessment to date of the exposure of the U.S. population to chemicals in the environment.
Chemicals were measured from blood and urine samples of about 2,400 people participating in CDC's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), an ongoing survey that samples the U.S. population every two years.
Researchers found 212 chemicals in people’s blood or urine samples, a staggering 75 of which had never been measured in the U.S. population before. Among the new chemicals detected were:
- Environmental phenols, including bisphenol A and triclosan
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers, which are fire retardants used in certain manufactured products. These accumulate in the environment and in human fat tissue. One type of polybrominated diphenyl ether, BDE-47, was found in the serum of nearly all of the participants.
Bisphenol A (BPA), a component of epoxy resins and polycarbonate plastics that may have potential reproductive toxicity, was found in more than 90% of the urine samples representative of the U.S. General population exposure to BPA may occur through ingestion of foods in contact with BPA-containing materials, the Summary reports.
Several of the perfluorinated chemicals, including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which is created through the manufacture of Teflon and other non-stick materials. Most participants had measurable levels of this environmental contaminant.
The 75 new chemicals detected in humans, which have never before been found, are as follows:
Total and Speciated Arsenic
Arsenic (V) acid
Arsenous (III) acid
Disinfection By-Products (Trihalomethanes)
Bisphenol A (2,2-bis[4-Hydroxyphenyl] propane)
4-tert-Octyl phenol (4-[1,1,3,3-Tetramethylbutyl] phenol)
Triclosan (2,4,4'-Trichloro-2'-hydroxyphenyl ether)
Non-dioxin-like Polychlorinated Biphenyls
2,2',3,3',4,4',5,5',6,6'-Decachlorobiphenyl (PCB 209)
2,2'3,5'-Tetrachlorobiphenyl (PCB 44)
2,2',4,5'-Tetrachlorobiphenyl (PCB 49)
Perfluorobutane sulfonic acid (PFBuS)
Perfluorodecanoic acid (PFDeA)
Perfluorododecanoic acid (PFDoA)
Perfluoroheptanoic acid (PFHpA)
Perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS)
Perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA)
Perfluorooctane sulfonamide (PFOSA)
Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS)
2-(N-Ethyl-Perfluorooctane sulfonamido) acetic acid (Et-PFOSA-AcOH)
2-(N-Methyl-perfluorooctane sulfonamido) acetic acid (Me-PFOSA-AcOH)
Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)Perfluoroundecanoic acid (PFUA)
Mono-(2-ethyl-5-carboxypentyl) phthalate (MECPP)
Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDE) and Polybrominated Biphenyl
2,2',3,4,4',5',6-Heptabromodiphenyl ether (BDE 183)
2,2',4,4',5,5'-Hexabromobiphenyl (BB 153)
2,2',4,4',5,5'-Hexabromodiphenyl ether (BDE 153)
2,2',4,4',5,6'-Hexabromodiphenyl ether (BDE 154)
2,2',3,4,4'-Pentabromodiphenyl ether (BDE 85)
2,2',4,4',5-Pentabromodiphenyl ether (BDE 99)
2,2',4,4',6-Pentabromodiphenyl ether (BDE 100)
2,2',4,4'-Tetrabromodiphenyl ether (BDE 47)
2,3',4,4'-Tetrabromodiphenyl ether (BDE 66)
2,2',4-Tribromodiphenyl ether (BDE 17)
2,4,4'-Tribromodiphenyl ether (BDE 28)
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
1,4-Dichlorobenzene (p-Dichlorobenzene, Paradichlorobenzene)
1,2-Dichloroethane (Ethylene dichloride)
1,1-Dichloroethene (Vinylidene chloride)
Dichloromethane (Methylene chloride)
Methyl-tert-butyl ether (MTBE)
Tetrachloromethane (Carbon tetrachloride)
1,1,1-Trichloroethane (Methyl chloroform)
m- and p-Xylene
“The dangers of pre- or post-natal exposure to this complex mixture of
carcinogens, developmental toxins and neurotoxins have never been studied,” EWG’s report stated.
Even Babies are Toxic
In an Environmental Working Group (EWG) study of the umbilical cord blood of 10 newborn babies in the United States, researchers found an average of 200 industrial chemicals and pollutants in babies’ cord blood, including pesticides, consumer product ingredients and wastes from burning coal, gasoline and garbage. Also found in the babies’ cord blood samples were:
- Eight perfluorochemicals used as stain and oil repellants in fast food packaging, clothes and textiles
- The Teflon chemical PFOA, which has been called a likely human carcinogen by the EPA's Science Advisory Board, was among the eight perfluorochemicals detected.
- Dozens of widely used brominated flame retardants and their toxic by-products
- Numerous pesticides
- 180 cause cancer in humans or animals
- 217 are toxic to the brain and nervous system
- 208 cause birth defects or abnormal development in animal tests
Is it Possible to Reduce Your Exposure?
Environmental toxins are becoming increasingly pervasive, and likely play a large role in a wide variety of disease, including cancer.
David Servan-Schreiber, a founding member of Doctors Without Borders in the U.S. and a cancer researcher and survivor, said in a Popular Science article, “Reducing exposure to many of the well-characterized chemical carcinogens abundant in our modern environments (pesticides, estrogens, benzene, PCBs, PVCs and bisphenol-A from heating liquids in plastic containers; alkylphenols in cleaning products; parabenes and phthalates in cosmetics and shampoos, etc.) would contribute to lessen the cancer risk.”