Chemical Body Burden: Part 1

Body Burden information from the CDC, the Environmental Working Group, Concerned Moms, and more...

A column devoted to informative alternative health resources on the internet

A Guide to Biomonitoring of Industrial Chemicals

The Guide to Biomonitoring at offers practical guidelines for monitoring the chemical pollution in people. In one section, barriers to getting tested (both regulatory, and practical) are discussed with the insight of firsthand experience. The Guide offers details regarding who may order clinical laboratory tests in each of the US states, and who is authorized to receive the results; 92 pages in length, the Guide is also chock-full of useful web page links, books, and journal articles. I recommend downloading it.

The report points out that human are potentially exposed to 3,000 high-production volume chemicals. (These are the chemicals produced in quantities of 1 million tons or more, per year). Combined in the human body, they cause harmful health effects.

The rest of the site is also worth browsing. Check out the seven New York Times ads, whose headlines include, "More kids are getting brain cancer. Why?" and "Pesticides could become the ultimate male contraceptive. Why?" The website links to journal citations that support all the ads' statements. is the website of the Center for Children's Health and the Environment. The site is associated with, but separate from, the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

Environmental Working Group--Body Burden


The Environmental Working Group and the Mount Sinai School of Medicine partnered to conduct a study of the pollution in people. The results are astonishing.

Researchers found an average of 91 industrial compounds, pollutants, and other chemicals in the blood and urine of nine volunteers. The study tested for 210 chemicals; a total of 167 chemicals were found in the group; 76 of these cause cancer in humans or animals, 94 are toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 79 cause birth defects or abnormal development. The people tested do not work with chemicals on the job and do not live near an industrial facility.

The website reporting these results is implemented creatively. You can click on Bill Moyers, for instance (one of the test subjects), to see precisely which PCBs, furans, dioxins, heavy metals, pesticides, phthalates, and volatile organic compounds were found in his body, along with details on the health effects. The site even tracks these chemicals down to the manufacturers and their brand names.

The site also has a "What's in your body?" section. To take this test (no blood or urine sampling required!), go to: htt:// It's very eye-opening!

I'd love to see Townsend Letter readers involved in working to implement the recommendations found in this Body Burden report.

Second National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals

This report, released the same week as the Body Burden report above, was described by the CDC as the most extensive assessment of the US population's exposure to environmental chemicals.

The Environmental Working Group does a good job of showing the differences between its study and the one done by the CDC. In essence, the CDC tested many more people, for fewer chemicals. There was an overlap of 49 chemicals.

The CDC's press release focused on the positive. For instance, it extolled the success of smoking prevention, evidenced by reduced exposure to tobacco smoke. Unfortunately, many of the report's findings were also disturbing. Organophosphate pesticides were found at about twice the levels in children's bodies as in adults. (Even at the same levels children would more likely be harmed). Attesting to its persistence, DDT was found in children born long after the US banned DDT!

The CDC will continue to release this report every two years, providing physicians with reference levels of exposure for various populations. Future reports will likely expand the number of chemicals covered.

Concerned Moms

This site is a little mysterious, providing no contact information. However it has good links to video related to chemical body burden, and a good summary of facts.

The bottom line is that industrial and consumer products are indeed leaching health-harming chemicals into our bodies. Most of these pollutants didn't even exist when our parents were born. If the thought of this toxic brew alarms you, stay tuned! Next month I'll profile related Body Burden resources, including ones that address policy reform.

by Marjorie Roswell

3443 Guilford Terrace * Baltimore, Maryland 21218 USA * Phone: 410-467-3727 * Email:

Marjorie Roswell is a web developer at a health policy organization in Baltimore.

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commented 2013-11-30 19:41:32 -0500 · Flag
Thank you
published this page in Web Page Potpourri 2012-01-10 13:10:51 -0500
Margie Roswell
Websites. Mapping. Music. Nutrition. Global Health.