What’s Your Body’s Chemical Burden?
by Sloan Barnett: Author, Green Goes with Everything,
Would you believe me if I told you even your unborn child has toxins flowing through her blood? It’s scary, but true. More than 200 toxic chemicals were identified in the umbilical cord blood of unborn babies in a groundbreaking study by the Environmental Working Group.
Most Americans, including children, have dozens of pesticides and other toxic compounds in their bodies, many of them linked to health threats. A source of many of these toxins? Common, every day, run of the mill consumer products. There’s no polite way of saying this: Your body is a landfill for a mind-boggling array of toxic chemicals. So is mine. So is your child’s.
Experts call the total amount of chemicals and pollutants that are present in your body at any given time our “body burden.” I don’t know about you, but I didn’t even know there was such a thing — and in a sense, I wish I still didn’t.
A few years ago, I persuaded experts at The Harvard School of Public Health, for the first time ever, to supervise a customized “Body Burden” test. The subject — me! The “Body Burden” test analyzed my blood for hundreds of chemicals and showed me that, like most of us, I had flame retardant, non-stick coating, plastics, etc. streaming through my blood, including many chemicals that have been banned for years.
Did you know:
• Of the 80,000 chemicals permitted in the U.S., the EPA required testing of only 500.
• Every day, 42 billion pounds of chemicals are produced or imported — wedon’t know the health risks of 75 percent of them.
• Asthma rates doubled between 1980 and 1995, and people diagnosed with asthma in the U.S. has grown by 4.3 million between 2001 and 2009.
We are participating in a giant chemistry experiment, and we are the test subjects.
Still not a believer? Then take a look at what I wrote in my New York Timesbestselling book “Green Goes with Everything: Simple Steps to a Healthier Life and a Cleaner Planet.”
Here’s a little test you can take to get a feel for your own chemical body burden. Check any of the following that apply in these two lists.
1. Do you:
• Suffer from asthma?
• Cough frequently?
• Have bouts of sneezing?
• Have irritated eyes?
• Often have a runny or stuffy nose?
• Have persistent itching?
• Suffer frequent headaches?
• Often feel fatigued?
These are, of course, common enough complaints, and there can be any number of causes. But before you blame them on some dire disease, answer the questions in this second list.
2. Do you:
• Frequently use conventional household cleaners?
• Often wear makeup?
• Microwave food in plastic containers?
• Drink a lot of water bottled in plastic containers?
• Have a lot of your clothes dry-cleaned?
• Experience more intense symptoms the more you’re at home?
• Find the symptoms go away when you’re on vacation?
• Find your children’s symptoms disappear in school and then return at home?
• Have wall-to-wall carpeting?
• Use air conditioners or humidifiers?
• Have a pest control company contract?
• Find your house to be damp or humid?
• Find excessive moisture on your windows, walls, or ceiling?
Look at the first set of questions. Did you check some of them? Now look at the second set. Did you check some of them, too? Bingo! I want you to at least consider whether the activities or conditions you checked in the second list could be causing the health problems in the first list.
Years ago, the endearing cartoon character Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” In a sense that’s the case here. But it’s more accurate to say, “We have met the enemy and it is many of the products we use in our lives every day.” If you wheeze, itch, scratch, cough, breakout, have headaches, suffer dizziness, are constantly tired, or just feel chronically crummy, the enemy might well live right at home.
It’s shocking to learn that everything you breathe in and touch in your homemakes its way through your skin and into your bloodstream.
I can hear you starting to hyperventilate. You’re thinking about the unpronounceable chemicals in your blood, and in your child’s blood. Take a deep breath. It’s all going to be fine. We’re going to tackle this problem in small, manageable bites. We’re going to look at the priority aspects of your life from your food to your air to your water. We’ll see what we can improve and what we might just have to live with — one step at a time. So stay tuned in the days to come and go to greengoeswitheverything.com.