Infuriated mom: Why can’t I protect my body? Study pinpoints chemicals in moms-to-be

  Pregnant and looking forward to motherhood, Kim Radtke walked the three-mile-long trail around Green Lake twice a week. She swam. She stretched in prenatal yoga class. She munched mostly organic foods – for years. Aware of chemicals in everyday products, she refused such things as ordinary scented lotions and deodorants. Trained as a midwife, she made a career of helping babies get a good start in life and she wanted the same for her unborn son.

    So when Radtke took part in a new study – released today  – that tested levels of chemicals in pregnant women, she was dismayed to learn she rated worst among nine West Coast women tested for a particular class of chemicals: perfluorinated compounds (PFCs**). They’re used to make Teflon pans, clothing, furniture, and food packaging such as pizza boxes and fast-food containers.

   In all, 11 nasty chemicals from everyday products and foods were detected in Radtke’s blood, meaning such substances also passed through her umbilical cord to her unborn child. And now that nearly three-week-old Karson has arrived, with every nutrition-filled breastfeeding, he sucks in chemicals.   

  “That really kills me as a mom,” says Radtke in an interview. “I took the best care I could possible, yet this was beyond my control.” 

  “We all kind of live in a toxic dump that we have very little control over, and that’s really sad.”  

  Even more chemicals were detected in Connie Galambos Malloy of Oakland, Calif., who told study authors: “This study shows that my body has been invaded by toxins from all angles despite my efforts to the contrary.”

 

   The research project by Washington Toxics Coalition staff scientist Erika Shreder in conjunction with other groups is aimed at spurring state legislators in Washington to further rein in chemicals, and prod changes at the national level. That happened before with the Children’s Safe Products Act, which, among other things, bans lead, cadmium and plasticizers called phthalates in toys and other children’s products.

   Shreder calls the newly released study the first of its kind of pregnant women. While the U.S.  Centers for Disease Control continues to undergo chemical sampling of people for a larger, long-range study, it doesn’t look at a particular demographic – such as pregnant women – and it doesn’t reveal names and faces of participants. “We have all of those things,” says Shreder.

  “It’s alarming that these chemicals are present in pregnant women,” Shreder says. “The environment that most needs to be safe – the womb – is not free of toxic pollution.”

  Blood and urine samples were taken from nine women to test for 23 chemicals from five chemical groups. Every woman tested was found to have been exposed to bisphenol A, found in such things as the lining of food cans. Each woman had two to four so-called “Teflon chemicals” (PFCs**). All had detectable levels of mercury, a chemical found in long-lived fish like tuna that is known to harm brain development. And every woman was exposed to at least four “phthalates” (pronounced THAL-ates). That’s a class of chemicals that includes plasticizers and fragrance carriers which is found in ordinary items such as vinyl shower curtains and scented shampoos. In all, researchers found 13 of the 23 chemicals they tested for in the study participants.

  “These chemicals can cause reproductive problems and cancer, disrupt hormonal systems such as the thyroid, and can impair brain development,” the study states. It argues that “the developing fetus is exquisitely vulnerable to the effects of toxic chemicals,” as it possesses “only a small proportion of the adult’s ability to detoxify foreign chemicals” while it “develops at a breakneck pace in the womb.”

   State Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson, D-Seattle, says she will push for passage of the Safe Baby Bottle Act, which she introduced last year. It passed the House, but not Senate. It would prohibit Bisphenol A in baby bottles, children’s food containers and sports water bottles. The bill doesn’t extend to the Bisphenol A in the linings of canned foods.  

  “I’m concentrating on babies and developing fetuses because they are the most at risk,” Dickerson said in an interview. The chemical “mimics estrogen. So it can wreak havoc with the endocrine systems of little boys and little girls.”

  Chemical manufacturers consistently have maintained that they try to minimize risks.  The American Chemistry Council’s web site, which features a photo of a diaper-clad baby in a hospital and another of a  young girl on her bicycle, argues that the “chemical industry recognizes that environmental health issues represent a legitimate concern, especially for parents. We also recognize our responsibility to help preserve a healthy environment, not only for our own children, but also for future generations.”

  However, the web site says risks must be put into context and suggests that risks from chemicals are not as serious as those from “accidents, violence, alcohol, drug abuse, tobacco, poverty, nutrition, sexually transmitted diseases, teenage pregnancy, child abuse…to name only a few.” The web site adds: “Chemical manufacturers go to great lengths to assure that their products are safe for their intended uses.” 

   Amy Ellings of Olympia, however, bought new shampoos and soaps without the words “fragrance” or “parfum” on their labels after she participated in the Washington Toxics study and learned it detected in her body 12 tested chemicals. They included by far the study’s highest reading of a particular phthalate, so she got rid of her vinyl shower curtain.

  “I feel frustration that there hasn’t been enough studies done to show exactly what happens with these chemicals,” Ellings, a dietician, said in an interview. Even though some studies do show problems, she’s frustrated that companies aren’t forced to list on labels all chemicals contained in their products. “Nobody’s doing anything about it,” Ellings said. “I think companies have to at least label… I feel that’s the government’s role, is to protect the health of our nation.”

  Molly Gray, a midwife and naturopathic physician in Seattle found to have 13 tested chemicals in her body,  told researchers: “I do my best to live organic and chemical-free. Apparently local/organic food only, toxin-free cleaners, off-gassed mattress, low/no VOC paint, and filtered water isn’t enough. The answer I received from this study is that the fight is too big for just one person.”

  Radtke, the Green Lake walker and a breastfeeding advocate, agrees.

  “It’s sad for me as a new mom,” Radtke said in an interview.  “I sit there and I nurse my baby and I know this is the BEST thing I can give my child. And I know the longer I breastfeed my child, the healthier he will be, and I’m totally dedicated to that. But I also realize I’m saddened at the same time, because I’m off-loading some of my body burden [of chemicals] onto him. And that’s not fair. He didn’t ask for that. That’s what makes me really angry…

  “Moms should be angry about this because we’re passing this on to our children and there’s nothing we can do about it, and that’s infuriating.”

 

**CORRECTION: The original version of this story used the wrong acronym for perfluorinated compounds. The correct acronym is PFCs, not PFOS.

 

SIDEBAR:

 

WHERE TO TURN

 Want to avoid phthalates or other chemicals at home? Consult these resources:

* Skin Deep www.cosmeticsdatabase.com

* Campaign for Safe Cosmetics: www.safecosmetics.org

* Healthytoys.org

* Saferchemicals.org

* Washington Toxics Coalition www.watoxics.org 

 

Further reading:

* Plastics Ingredients Could Make a Boy’s Play Less Masculine (by Science News)

* Mercury Found in Blood of One-Third of American Women (by Environment News Service; SEJ)

* A Glut of Mercury Raises Fears (by Washington Post)

* FDA Knew about Mercury in Corn Syrup — and Kept Silent (by Chicago Tribune; SEJ Tipsheet)

* Teflon Woes Still Sticking to Food Packaging (www.Sej.org)

* BPA May Affect Sexual Function in Adult Men, Study Finds (by ConsumerReports Health Blog)

* Puget Sound: Down the Drain? When you wash clothes, you pollute (by Seattlepostglobe)

 

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23 Responses to Infuriated mom: Why can’t I protect my body? Study pinpoints chemicals in moms-to-be

  • got mercury:

    People worried about mercury ingestion from fish can estimate exposure by entering their weight, fish choice and serving size into the new mercury calculator at http://www.gotmercury.org. You can also use the mobile mercury calculator for cell phone browsers at http://www.gotmercury.mobi. The calculator is based on current U.S. EPA and FDA mercury guidelines, weak as they are. Learn more about
    mercury-laden fish and how to protect yourself and your family at http://www.gotmercury.org or http://www.diagnosismercury.org

  • Kelly:

    You should try Intelligent Nutrients http://www.intelligentnutrients.com All food and seed based USDA Certified Organic. Founder of IN is the master mind behind Aveda as well. Safe enough to eat them!!

  • Blue Light:

    As a country we ought to set aside a couple of states for those of us who demand absolutes: be it environmental or personal safety. Inside this sanctuary – shall we call it New Eden? – there shall be no plastic, no fossil fuels, no cell phone, internet or other conveniences (that destroy the earth, dontca know?), no modern medicine (what with it’s radiomedicine and high-tech pharmaceuticals), no… (fill in the blank).

    The New Eden will be a place where idealogues can go and live the pristine life they apparently desire. One catch: once you move into New Eden, you stay. You accept the 40 year life expectacy of your farefathers (and foremothers!) and you work hard – everyday – to provide your meager succor and shelter. Sounds kind of depressing, but – on the bright side – you will no longer be “furious”. You’ll be way too busy trying to survive.

  • CentralAreaGuy:

    This is beyond ignorant and cruel.

  • Chemistry:

    Blue Light:

    Nice one lambasting a story about a concerned pregnant woman!

    Your whole post is a straw man here:
    A straw man is a fallacy in which an irrelevant topic is presented in order to divert attention from the original issue.

    We can take steps to help limit exposure of hormone disrupting chemicals to fetus blood and still enjoy the luxury’s of modern society. It called regulation.

    Do you care if your showering water is contaminated? You should. We have regulations for that type of thing in many cities and municipalities to ensure the least amount of damage occurs to people & babies, should some health threat to the community happen to occur.

    Also, check out the EU’s toxic and dangerous chemical use standards. The EU is a market in which some US products are already not competitive because of our (the U.S.) refusal to regulate any chemicals in products, even known hazardous substances.

    Have a great day

  • Enviro reporter:

    Not to nit-pick, but this is a pet peeve of mine I see too often in stories on environmental health. PFOS is not the correct acronym for “perfluorinated chemicals” (PFCs). PFOS is a particular type of PFC that at one time was used in Scotchguard but was banned in 2003. The PFC you’re referring to, “Teflon chemicals,” is PFOA. Other than that, I’m glad they’re doing this testing, and finally working on reforming chemical regulation at the federal level. We shouldn’t be guinea pigs for the chemical industry!

  • workingdog:

    It should be noted that Kim Radtke has not suffered any adverse effects from the toxins she’s found in her body — except that she feels a great deal of fear. Will she suffer in the future? We don’t know. She doesn’t know. All we are left with is fear.

  • Kpaw:

    You are ignorant. You obviously did not even read the article. Educate yourself before you express your “ideas”.

  • Orna Izakson, ND:

    Great article, Sally. Thanks for including resources at the end. And I love the quotation at the end from Molly Gray: “The answer I received from this study is that the fight is too big for just one person.”

  • Sally Deneen:

    Hi Enviro Reporter (and other readers–thanks to everyone for your points):
    Oh, I think the report addressed the matter of PFCs vs. PFOS, stating that the mothers of the nine West Coast babies in this study tested positive for four different perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), including PFOA, PFOS, PFNA and PFHxS — all testing below the CDC threshold.
    Here’s how the report put it:
    “PFCs form a large family of chemicals, many of them breaking down to form PFOA and PFOS, two indestructible chemicals found in each of the women in our study. For the likely cancer-causing PFOA, levels were fairly consistent among participants, ranging from 1.49 ppb to 3.36 ppb in this study. Levels of PFOS, once the key ingredient of Scotchgard, ranged more widely, with a low of 1.12 ppb and a high level of 11 ppb. Interestingly, the trend in our group matched that of a much larger study of the U.S. population, in which older individuals had higher levels than younger people….
    “Though PFOS is no longer manufactured, PFOA is still used to create Teflon products and both chemicals are formed when other PFCs break down, contributing to the ongoing contamination of people, wildlife and the environment. Because these chemicals cross the placenta to reach the fetus, researchers also found them in more than 99% of 293 Maryland newborns tested in 2004 and 2005. These researchers also found that children born with higher levels of PFOA and PFOS had lower birth weight, potentially increasing their risk of diabetes and obesity in adulthood. A larger study published at the same time found that babies whose mothers had higher levels of PFOA during pregnancy were born smaller.”

  • Sally Deneen:

    Hi Enviro Reporter –
    Oh, I think the report addressed your point.
    Let’s see:
    “Though PFOS is no longer manufactured, PFOA is still used to create Teflon products and both chemicals are formed when other PFCs break down, contributing to the ongoing contamination of people, wildlife and the environment. Because these chemicals cross the placenta to reach the fetus, researchers also found them in more than 99% of 293 Maryland newborns tested in 2004 and 2005. These researchers also found that children born with higher levels of PFOA and PFOS had lower birth weight, potentially increasing their risk of diabetes and obesity in adulthood. A larger study published at the same time found that babies whose mothers had higher levels of PFOA during pregnancy were born smaller.”
    I have a gobbledy-gook-filled longer version of this reply farther below in this comment stream, but, egads, I see in retrospect that it’s so full of jargon. I hope I’ve pared it down to the salient point here.

  • Hugh J. Rushing:

    This article contains seriously erroneous information on PFOA and nonstick cookware, and therefore may well cause unnecessary worry and concern among those who read it. Studies by several authoritative sources including EPA have indicated that nonstick cookware is not a source of exposure to PFOA. EPA states on its PFOA website, “The information that EPA has available does not indicate that the routine use of consumer products poses a concern. At present, there are no steps that EPA recommends that consumers take to reduce exposures to PFOA.”

    Nonstick coatings have been, and continue to be, approved for use by the US Food and Drug Administration, the European Food Safety Authority and other regulatory agencies worldwide.

    Nonstick cookware is recommended by the American Heart Association and National Stroke Association because it allows for cooking with little or no oil. Please see the AHA website for further information on nonstick cookware and healthy eating.

    We urge you to correct this article.

    Hugh Rushing
    Executive Vice President
    Cookware Manufacturers Association

  • CentralAreaGuy:

    I’ll hold this with the same regard as I do Oil, coal and health industry lobbyists. The idea that the spike in cancer and illness since indutrialism and modernization is unrelated to the chemicals and poisons that now fill our food, water and air is a bit disingenuous.

  • Sally Deneen:

    Dear Mr. Rushing,

    Thank you for your input. It’s important that you point out what you feel may be inaccuracies in our report. It’s also important to me to address any factual shortcomings in my story. However, I remain unclear about what you find erroneous about the article.

    The article accurately describes the report on which the story is based. That report identifies perfluorinated compounds as a class of chemicals found in the pregnant women studied.

    The article also says that perfluorinated compounds are “used to make Teflon pans, clothing, furniture, and food packaging such as pizza boxes and fast-food containers,” as the report describes. Are you saying this is inaccurate? Please provide specifics.

    Your citation from the EPA web page also is accurate. Please note that on the same web page, the EPA says the science about the risk of at least one of the perfluorinated compounds in question, PFOA, is unsettled: “EPA has not yet made a determination as to whether PFOA poses an unreasonable risk to the public.”

    If you still believe the article was erroneous, please let me know more specifically how. Thanks again for getting in touch.

    Sally Deneen

  • OhZone:

    Mr Rushing, you are saying that teflon cookware is safe?
    Then why does it give off fumes that can kill Canarys?
    Are you working for the teflon industry perhaps?

  • Dad Fourkids:

    Bluelight, your dropping the “40 yo life expectancy of your forefathers” as a rationalization of us being exposed to industrial and commercial chemical pollutants is facetious at best.

    To start with, it shows a complete misunderstanding of what life expectancy is. This did not mean that everyone live to be in their 40s and then died. It is an average, so many people lived well into their senior years, but there were enough people who did not that the average was in the 40′s.

    And most people who died did so for four primary reasons – famine, war, dangerous working conditions (especially in agriculture) and the difficulties associated with childbirth. Of these factors, famine and childbirth were especially hard on the life expectancy average, since it only takes a few children under the age of five to bring the average of a dozen septegenarians down to the mid 40′s.

    When you can come up with a stronger argument to support the idea that industry should be free to dump toxic substances as they please, feel free to try again.

  • Charles:

    how insensitive.

    At the very least, all ingredients should be on the labels at purchase so people know what they are exposing themselves to. I believe in individual choice, but you can only make the choices right for you if you have all the information.

    I really hope you aren’t raising children.

  • Tim Christie:

    Some questions I have:

    From among the checimcals found to be in the study’s participant’s blood, in what quantity were these chemicals found? Is there any peer reviewed scientific evidence that indicates these levels are dangerous? If so, can you source them?

    Also, have any comparisons be made between the blood of some people in (relatively) industrialized places and different, (relatively) non-undistrialized places (e.g., Seattle area vs. a rural portion of Paupa New Guinea)? If so, what do these comparisons look like? If not, I’d like to see such comparisons!

    Lastly, some of the language in this article is vague implying a lot but clearly stating very little:

    “These chemicals can cause reproductive problems and cancer, disrupt hormonal systems such as the thyroid, and can impair brain development.”

    Should I understand this sentence to mean that: “the chemicals WILL cause….”

    or

    “The chemicals (in massive quantities) may cause…”

    or

    “The chemicals are linked with causing…”

    or

    “The chemicals are correleated with…”

    We all must remember that “links”, “associations”, and “correlations” are not causes.

    Tim

  • Sally Deneen:

    Hi Tim,
    Good questions–thanks. There are 80-plus footnotes to the study, including many titles to peer-reviewed articles. You can find those references in the back of the report via the link found above (below the photo) or go here: http://bit.ly/26J2G7
    I referred your specific questions to Erika Shreder, the lead author of the study, too.
    She particularly referred to 2 peer-reviewed studies:

    Swan S. 2008. “Environmental phthalate
    exposure in relation to reproductive
    outcomes and other health endpoints in
    humans.” Environmental Research 108:177-
    184.

    Vandenberg L, R Hauser, M Marcus, N Olea,
    and WV Welshons. 2007. Human exposure
    to bisphenol A (BPA). Reproductive
    Toxicology 24:139-177.

    She also referred to EPA’s web site. Looking at the back of her report, I see a few references there:

    U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
    2009. Mercury: Health Effects. http://www.
    epa.gov/mercury/effects.htm. Accessed on:
    September 11, 2009.

    Environmental Protection Agency. 2009.
    America’s Children and the Environment.
    http://www.epa.gov/economics/children/
    body_burdens/b4-graph.htm. Accessed on:
    October 26, 2009.

    Environmental Protection Agency. 2004.
    What You Need to Know About Mercury
    in Fish and Shellfish. http://www.epa.gov/
    fishadvisories/advice/. Accessed on: October
    8, 2009.

    She goes on to write:

    “In terms of the levels, they are referenced in a couple of places [in the report] and I can expand on that for you. The first place in the report is with phthalates, in which in a number of cases the levels in our study exceeded those of women whose sons had altered genital development. This is referenced in the report where I discuss the Shanna Swan study.

    “The other place is with mercury. While none of the women had levels exceeding what EPA considers a dangerous level, EPA’s website (see reference in the report) also says that research has found no safe level of mercury exposure within the range of study, which goes down to 1 ppb. Five of our participants had levels exceeding 1 ppb.

    “The other example I would give you is with bisphenol A. We can’t compare the levels in our study with those in laboratory studies because we measured it in urine rather than blood. However, the median level in people today is greater than levels found in laboratory animals in the low dose studies that have found effects. This is discussed in the Vandenberg article (reference 49 in back of the report). Also, in the consensus statement issued by 38 scientists in 2007, they conclude “BPA levels in the fetal mouse exposed to BPA by maternal delivery of 25 micrograms/kg, a dose that has produced adverse effects in multiple experiments, are well within the range of unconjugated BPA levels observed in human fetal blood.” In other words, the levels tested in human fetuses are in the same range as the levels expected in the fetuses of laboratory animals where the mothers were exposed to a low dose and adverse effects were seen.
    +++++

    “As for the other questions, yes, in some cases these comparisons have been made. How they turn out depends on the chemical and the location. For example, levels of some chemicals found in consumer products have been found to be lower in some less-industrialized areas. On the other hand, PCB and mercury levels are higher in polar regions due to long-range transport. So people who live in those areas, and are many times dependent on fish consumption, can have higher levels.

    “As for how to phrase the strength of the evidence, here’s a try: There is evidence from laboratory studies as well as human studies that these chemicals cause the health problems described. Because we don’t generally conduct controlled experiments with people, it is difficult to generate definitive proof. However, laboratory studies have proven that these effects occur, in many cases at low doses, including doses resulting in exposures actually lower than what humans are currently experiencing.”

    I hope that helps explain things better. Again, thanks, Tim.

  • coda:

    i thought blue light’s comment was funny. gosh, compared to reader comments on other news site, it’s downright supportive. this must be the site where sensitive people go for their news.

  • CentralAreaGuy:

    not sensitive – just educated

  • Pamela K:

    We have truly lost control of our country. The Food and Drug Administration’s allowance of chemicals and toxic substances to be used that affect peoples’ health is a perfect example of this. We no longer have a safe air, food or water supply. The banks, credit card companies and insurance companies have declared economic war on the American people and have taken almost half of peoples’ assets away from them. And agencies like the FDA continue to put public health perpetually on the back burner.

  • Sally Deneen:

    The PostGlobe today received this rebuttal of the article from Elmer Rauckman, Phd DABT:

    As a professional toxicologist who has worked in Academia (Duke University Medical Center), Federal Government (Staff of the National Toxicology Program), and large Industry (Hoechst-Celanese) and as an Independent Consultant and Expert Witness in several cases of human exposure and alleged adverse effects, I am appalled by the amount of disinformation that appears in the press concerning chemical exposures. It creates hysteria where informed assessment is the most appropriate and beneficial response. In my opinion, emotional stress of expectant mothers probably accounts for more adverse outcomes of pregnancy than any “chemical” exposure in the United States.

    I put the word chemical in quotes for a reason. Most people do not realize just what a chemical is or is not. My academic training (PhD and post-doctoral training) was in organic chemistry, biochemistry and pharmacology. From my perspective, I see that there is nothing on this planet that is not a chemical or an element. Humans included! Your body is a lot of chemicals combined in an incredibly complex and balanced manner. It requires constant replenishment of thousands of chemical substances that it cannot make.

    Yes, some chemicals can cause cancer – Cobalt for example is a powerful animal carcinogen but it is also a dietary requirement. Oxygen is highly toxic unless diluted with inert gases, but you can’t live without it. There are numerous other examples that show balance is the key concept.

    Strangely, this observation fits with the basic precept of toxicology “The DOSE makes the poison”. Who does not know that drinking too much water can kill you? Hopefully that lesson has been learned by example. Is water a chemical? An appropriate systematic for water is “dihydrogen monoxide CAS Registry Number 7789-20-0. Now that sounds more like a chemical, doesn’t it? There are numerous cases where drinking excess dihydrogen monoxide has resulted in death. In January 2007, a 28-year-old woman and mother of three, was found dead in her home hours after trying to win a prize in California radio station sponsored water drinking contest. You require water to live so please don’t stop drinking water just because it is toxic.

    Some chemicals have no known requirement or beneficial effects on the human body – lead, mercury and “Teflon and Scotch-guard chemicals” are examples of these that are very difficult to purge from your body and accumulate with time– these are a serious concern if the accumulated dose is too high. Exposure and dose is much more difficult to control for materials that do not break down in the environment and accumulate in your body. In my opinion, these are the ugly chemicals when there is human exposure.

    It is hard to get too excited about phthalates, a group of chemicals I was responsible for in my tenure at the National Toxicology Program. They break down in the environment, your body metabolizes them and excretes part and uses part as a nutrient. No, I don’t
    consider them as nutritious but it shows how flexible and adaptive the human body can be. Phthalates are high-dose reproductive and developmental toxins in laboratory animals and we have known that since the 1970’s. High-dose means that it takes a lot of the chemical to cause adverse effects – for rats, dose levels in the range of 1 gram per kilogram body weight daily dosing will cause effects. Simple extrapolation to a 60 kg human translates to eating about four pounds of phthalates a month. We are fairly sure a human consuming that much would have clear adverse effects on reproduction – not to mention a serious case of indigestion.

    Could low doses cause adverse effects? Yes, but we don’t really know the dose-response relationship for a human. The animal models are good qualitatively but can’t unequivocally inform the question of exactly what level is dangerous for a human. Indeed, it is prudent to reduce your exposure as much as possible to a substance that can cause specific toxicity – but stressing out over it and making major changes in diet (chemicals you eat for nutrition) will probably produce more adverse effects than the chemical exposure would ever.

    I have seen families lose their homes and all their belongings to toxic hysteria and seen families break up due to unfounded fears. The saddest part is we know better. It is time we stop listening to the hyperbole of the lunatic fringe and empower ourselves with evidence-based facts. If someone tells you that eating food from cans will make you infertile – ask them to put their money where their mouth is and show you the evidence.

    How low can you go? Modern analytical techniques can identify infinitesimally small quantities of materials, is that meaningful? For example, Mercury is a naturally occurring element that is somewhat volatile and it comes with the planet. The U.S. Geological Survey has a keen interest in mercury contamination of water ways and has studied the issues. The USGS states that natural sources include volcanoes, natural mercury deposits, and volatilization from the ocean. The primary human-related sources include: coal combustion, chlorine alkali processing, waste incineration, and metal processing. Best estimates to date suggest that human activities have about doubled or tripled the amount of mercury in the atmosphere.

    Unlike easily metabolized and excreted materials such as the phthalates, mercury is accumulated by the body because it is excreted very slowly. The all natural contribution to mercury in air amounts to about one nanogram per cubic meter, which is 150 million (150,000,000) atoms of mercury per half liter breath. Granite counter tops typically contain 200 ppb (part per billion) mercury, some of which is released into the air and can migrate into foods placed directly on the countertop, but don’t let that scare you the amounts are trivial. We have been living with mercury on this chemical planet for over a million years, our bodies can deal very well with little bits. Only when air, water or food levels cross a certain threshold do we experience toxic effects.

    Since this is a chemical world we live in there are many highly toxic substances we come in contact with daily. Even organic vegetables have small amounts of highly toxic substances and your body deals well with them.

    Similarly the environmental estrogen issue scare needs to be kept in perspective. Yes, Bis-phenol A and many phthalates are weak estrogens. Polyphenols, an important class of nutrients and antioxidant in food also have estrogenic activity. The “natural” human diet of fruits, nuts and vegetables has plenty of estrogenic polyphenols that are missing from most processed foods. Just maybe, humans are at their best with a little more estrogenic activity in their bodies. Your body cannot tell a synthetic chemical from a natural one, it deals with all substances individually. You could say we have equal-opportunity bodies. Don’t misunderstand me, I am not advocating increasing your intake of BPA and phthalates. Keep in mind that we know a lot about these chemicals and throwing them out in favor of a new untested chemical is an adventure into the unknown
    The PostGlobe article is hopefully intended to provide information and not entertainment; however, it fails in providing accurate and useful information. Contrary to the information in the article, not all chemicals pass the placenta to reach the conceptus and not all chemicals are excreted in breast milk. As an example, the Teflon-Scotchgard chemicals have been examined in humans and it was found that PFOA and PFOSA do not cross the placenta and for PFOS the placenta provides a partial barrier such that fetal levels are about one third (or less) of maternal levels. This information is readily available without cost by means of a Google search ( http://www.thefreelibrary.com). Data concerning breast milk concentrations of these materials are also easy to find with Google and a little time on the internet.

    I thought responsible journalism included researching “facts” before publication.

    The mere presence of a chemical does not mean it is causing effects. It really is the dose that makes the poison. Some of the most important chemicals in your body are the ones that make up your brain – use them wisely.