Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Inside each of us

The Globe reports on an experiment to see just what toxic substances are present in the blood of Canadians generally. And not surprisingly, the results aren't good:
The results, to be released in a report today, show that despite his clean-living ways, Mr. Bateman's body is a repository for 48 different toxic substances. These include heavy metals; PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls used in electrical transformers and now banned); PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers used as fire retardants); PFOs (perfluorinated chemicals used in stain repellants, non-stick cookware and food packaging), pesticides and insecticides.

While this may seem startling for someone who lives on B.C.'s idyllic Saltspring Island and eats organic food, Mr. Bateman's so-called "body burden" is that of an average Canadian.

"The bottom line being that we are all polluted," said Dr. Rick Smith, executive director of Environmental Defence Canada, a Toronto-based environmental health group. "The message to Canadians is -- it doesn't matter where you live, how old you are, it doesn't matter how clean living you are or if you eat organic food, or if you get a lot of exercise. We all carry inside of us hundreds of different pollutants and these things are accumulating inside our bodies every day."...

Tests were done on 11 volunteers, including Mr. Bateman, for 88 chemicals believed to be carcinogenic, to disrupt reproduction and hormonal function and interfere with fetal development. Researchers found that, on average, participants had a cocktail of 44 in their bodies...

The report noted that younger test subjects had much lower levels of PCBs, chemicals banned in 1977, and said that shows regulation works.
Note that Health Canada (unlike other state health administrators) hadn't taken any steps to even find out about the concentration of these toxic substances, meaning that it took a non-profit effort to even begin gathering information.

Obviously some of the substances are ones about which we now know enough to avoid. But the group which did the testing notes that there's been a delay in regulating some of the substances which are already known to be harmful. And more importantly, it shouldn't escape our notice that a past lack of information can't be undone once the truth about a substance becomes known.

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