The Foreign Junk That’s In Us

body burden

Anyone who has read the articles on this blog site knows that all of us are contaminated with a cocktail of chemicals that were not meant to be in our bodies. The list is long and the effects are all bad: some cause cancers, some mess up normal development of the fetus, some interfere with the immune system, many disrupt the proper functioning of hormones of the endocrine system.

We should not be surprised that we are contaminated because hundreds of toxic chemicals are released into the air and water and are contained in virtually every product in our homes. Consider just pesticides applied to our crops. 694 million pounds of herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides were applied to U.S. crops in 2007 – that is more that two pounds per person! Certainly not all of these pesticides make their way into our bodies, but too much do. Anderson Cooper of CNN was tested for 246 chemicals and more than 100 were found in his body. Likewise, Bill Moyers of PBS was tested for 150 chemicals and 84 were found: 31 types of PCBs (although banned for several decades), 13 dioxins and pesticides, such as DDT (also banned for several decades).

More comprehensive data on body burdens can be found in the Center for Disease Control’s 4th report on chemicals in the environment. The data is reported as average concentrations, and 95th percentiles concentrations (both in ppb). The latter is the concentration of the chemical in 5 percent of the population most heavily contaminated. See the footnote for a brief description of the chemicals.

CHEMICAL Average 95th percentile
BPA 1.83 9.6
Perchlorate 3.9 17.3
Triclosan 14.5 438
PFOA 3.1 7.5
PFOS 9.3 32
Ten PAHs 7.6 64
Six phthalates 2 to 64 14 to 988

To get an idea of the significance of these numbers for a group of endocrine disruptors, we can compare their concentrations with that of common hormones (in ppb).

HORMONE Blood Concentration
Creatine kinase 40-200
Total thyroxine 50-120
Testosterone (male) 2-13
Estradiol (female) 0.05-0.2
Epinephrine 0.01
Free thyroxine 0.008-0.015

The significance is very clear: common toxic chemicals are present in human bodies at concentrations comparable to, or greater than, the concentrations of many hormones. It should therefore not be surprising that our body chemistry can be messed up by these foreign contaminants. Fortunately, you can reduce the concentrations of these toxics in your body by simple methods – mostly of avoidance – mentioned in these blog articles.


BPA is bisphenol-A on paper receipts.
Perchlorate is a component of solid rocket fuel.
Triclosan is an antibacterial in many liquid hand soaps.
PFOA and PFOS are perfluorinated chemicals on carpets.
PAHs are polyaromatic hydrocarbons found in diesel smoke.
Pthalates are softeners found in vinyl products and body lotions.




About donlouis

The author has long had a keen interest in staying healthy and fit, and in doing whatever I can to keep the natural environment unpolluted and a healthy space for people and all animals. As a former Board Member of a municipal water district, I regularly had to deal with the issue of water quality. I first became aware of radiation hazards from toxic materials while working on uranium for nuclear reactors. During the 1960s I was tuned into the global hazard from Strontium 90 raining down from atmospheric testing of nuclear bombs. While working in the chemical industry in later years I became aware of the many forms of chemical contaminants entering the environment every day, and resolved to do something about it. I am able to make sense out of the voluminous descriptions of common toxic chemical because of my training in chemistry, with a Ph.D. degree and several decades of research and development work in the chemical industry. My training and experience enables me to present to readers reliable and current information on the topic of chemical hazards in the environment, and their threats to human health. All my life I have loved hiking and camping in nature. Skiing, river kayaking, and tennis have been my favorite physical activities. Nature photography is my artistic passion.
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