A wakeup article, The Pollution Within, by David Ewing Duncan appeared in the National Geographic magazine (October 2006). It describes the foreign chemicals found in his own body. Of 320 chemicals tested for, 165 were found in his body. The article graphically shows that toxic chemicals, such as PBDEs, phthalates, pesticides, PFOAs, PCBs, dioxins, bisphenol-A, and heavy metals, commonly found in homes can find their way into our bodies. Would you be comfortable if your body contained so-called “safe” levels” of 165 toxic chemicals?
Although huge quantities of toxic substances enter the global environment, you may ask, do significant amounts get into our bodies? A study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that 99.5% of 5000 people had DDE (a breakdown product of DDT) in their blood, even though DDT was banned over 30 years ago. It was stated in a 1999 research report that PCBs and DDE were found in 30% of the uterine fluid of pregnant American and Canadian mothers. Surely a big yellow caution flag for mothers! The CDC concluded “most people in the U.S. carry a significant body burden of pesticides and pesticide metabolites.” What a terrible situation! If we had traces of sewage in our household tap water we would be shocked into action.
In 2004 the World Wildlife Fund initiated a DETOX campaign to discover the level of contaminates in people’s bodies. To achieve high visibility for the results they choose to use politicians as subjects. Blood samples from 14 Ministers of European countries were analyzed for 103 man-made chemicals from 7 different chemical families: organochlorine pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), synthetic musks, perfluorinated chemicals, brominated flame retardants, phthlates, and anti-microbials. The findings stunned the ministers. As the director of the campaign, Karl Wagner, stated, “I was shocked because in my blood were at least 43 artificial chemicals; I had no idea these chemicals were in my body or how they got there, and nobody can tell me what effect these chemicals have.” The testing disclosed that 100 percent of the ministers’ blood samples were contaminated with PCBs, pesticides, brominated flame retardants, and perfluorinated chemicals; 79 percent were contaminated with phthlates, and anti- microbials. The highest concentration of any chemical was 160 ppb of the plasticizer diethylhexylphthalate.
Swedish researchers in 2004 examined stored samples of human breast milk and were shocked to discover that between 1970 and 1998 the level of PBDEs in breast milk was doubling every five years, a rate unmatched by any known chemical in the last 25 years. When the California Department of Toxic Substances Control examined blubber from seals in the San Francisco Bay they found that the level of brominated flame retardants (PBDEs) had increased 100 fold. A recent report states that very high levels are being found in blood and breast milk of Americans. Nationwide tests in 2003 by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found record levels of PBDEs in the breast milk of mothers. As EWG reported, “It is no surprise that American homes are contaminated with PBDEs: they are added to thousands of everyday products, including computers, TVs and furniture.” I would add, especially to earlier foam cushioning.
You may want to examine your mattress to discover if it contains foam cushioning containing PBDE flame retardants. You can often learn from the attached tag, or from the manufacturer. (See the article of April 7 for more information on this topic.)