Lessons from the Burden of Toxic Chemicals We Carry In our Bodies
We are all carrying a surprising number of toxic chemicals in our bodies, according to a number of studies including some conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But what is the source of this exposure? What can we do to prevent it? A new assessment concludes that much of the exposure comes from products (including pesticides) and building materials that we use in our homes, workplaces, and the other indoor places where we spend our time. Since these exposures are mostly not regulated by environmental laws, we need to protect ourselves by using nontoxic alternatives.
How was the assessment conducted?
A scientist at the Georgia Institute of Technology wrote this assessment. It is not a research study, but rather an analysis of what studies measuring the burden of toxic chemicals in our bodies tell us.
What did the assessment find?
- People are "regularly exposed to many toxic chemicals and carry them in our bodies."
- "Most of our exposure to pollutants occurs indoors and from products we choose to use."
- The incidence of diseases "with potential links to chemical exposures have been increasing nationwide."
- We might expect that environmental laws would protect us, but "no federal law or agency specifically protects indoor air environments."
- How can we reduce these exposures? We need "access to accurate and complete information about the chemical ingredients in products," so that people can make more informed choices about what products to use and when they need to reduce their exposure.
- We also need better evaluation of products before they are put on the market.
- "We should promote the use and production of safer alternatives to common products."
- We should use a precautionary approach. "Rather than waiting until
a pollutant is emitted and found in the body, and then trying to asses the
resulting harm, we can try to prevent harm in the first place."
Study Summary: Steinemann, A. et al. 2004. Human exposure, health hazards, and environmental regulations Environmental Impact Assessment Review 24(7-8):695-710