Studies show toxins exist in Americans
WASHINGTON -- Michael Lerner and Sharyle Patton avoid red meat, buy organic produce and keep pesticides out of their Northern California home. Yet chemical analyses of their blood and urine found lots of toxins -- 105 different ones for her, 101 for him.
He's got worrisome amounts of mercury, arsenic and lead. She's troubled by measurable levels of dozens of different forms of two industrial chemicals linked to cancer, dioxins and PCBs.
Two studies, one released Thursday by a New York hospital and a Washington environmental group, the other coming Friday from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, look at the prevalence of low levels of industrial and agricultural chemicals in Americans' bodies. The chemicals' presence is not necessarily harmful, but it raises questions about how they got there and what effects they have.
"We really made choices to avoid chemical exposures, yet as my wife said, what these tests demonstrate is that we all live in the same chemical neighborhood," Lerner said Thursday from his Bolinas, Calif., home.
Lerner and Patton were part of a $200,000 two-year "Body Burden" study by the Environmental Working Group and New York's Mt. Sinai Hospital. It tested for 210 chemicals in the bodies of eight environmental and health activists, plus journalist Bill Moyers -- an unusually small sample.
In those nine people -- including a two-time cancer survivor who'd received chemotherapy -- 167 different industrial and agricultural chemicals were found. The chemicals -- including heavy metals, phosphate and chlorine compounds from insecticides, dioxins and PCBs -- have been linked to cancers, nervous system malfunctions and birth defects.
Today's CDC study will examine the issue differently. The CDC looked at a larger and more representative sample of 5,000 random Americans, but searched for only 116 chemicals. Last year, looking at only 27 chemicals, the CDC found nothing alarming.
Philip Landrigan, community and preventative medicine chief at Mt. Sinai, said his study illustrates the need for answers to serious questions about what these chemicals are doing in bodies when they interact with each other, and what doses are low enough to be safe.
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