1 February 2003
releases vast chemical study
may explain how common agents affect human body
largest study ever done on troublesome chemicals that slip into
the bodies of American children and adults from everyday items like
food, shampoo, nail polish and teething rings was released Friday.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report examined
116 chemicals measured in the blood and urine of some 2,500 Americans
in 1999-2000. Nearly all of the chemicals have been found to be
toxic in animal studies, but little is known about their effects
cancer, attention deficit disorder, asthma and other ailments on
the rise -- often for unknown reasons -- some hope the data will
be a starting point to learn more about how chemicals interact with
the human body.
information about people's exposure means better decisions to protect
public health," said Dr. Richard Jackson, CDC director of the
National Center for Environmental Health. The report is called the
Second National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals.
The first report was released in 2001 and examined 27 chemicals.
The CDC plans to continue the reports every other year.
officials hope the CDC will approve a similar test of the state's
residents. The state received a $200,000 CDC grant last year to
plan how a similar study could be done here, said Frances Pouch
Downes, director of Michigan's public health laboratory. If Michigan
is approved, its residents would be tested for more than 20 substances,
including arsenic, mercury and PBBs, a fire retardant that ended
up in the state's food supply in the 1970s.
Friday's report, the CDC measured environmental tobacco smoke by
tracing cotinine, a byproduct of nicotine. The report showed cotinine
declined in children and adults in the 1990s, but children and adolescents
continued to have twice as much of the substance as adults. Black
people have twice the level of whites.
poisoning also is declining. Nationally, about 434,000 children
between the ages of 1 and 5 have 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter
of blood, said Pam Meyer, a health scientist with the CDC's Lead
Poisoning Prevention Branch. That's about 2.2 percent of thatpopulation.The
new CDC estimate is higher than a preliminary one given to the Free
Press this month that put the number at 300,000.
expected to draw the most attention is new data for chemicals like
phthalates, a softening substance added to many products. Teething
rings, shampoo, plastic bags, nail polish and vinyl tubing may have
it. The CDC found one type of phthalates more common in children,
another in adults. Phthalates testing in animals showed a link to
problem is the U.S. government does not require companies to test
many chemicals in products before putting them on the market, said
Jane Houlihan, vice president for research with the Environmental
Working Group, an advocacy group.
know from polling that Americans think the government requires companies
to test their products before putting them on the market,"
Houlihan said. "That is just not true."
Environmental Working Group conducted its own chemical analysis
of nine volunteers. Pictures of the volunteers, along with the chemicals
found in their bodies, are at www.ewg.org/reports/bodyburden.
industry representatives say the public should be cautious in drawing
hasty conclusions from the CDC report.
"are associated with benefits to society whether it's in plastics
to make cars more fuel efficient or plastics used in emergency rooms
to save lives or pesticides that contribute to a safe and abundant
food supply," said Jay Vroom, president of CropLife America,
which represents pesticide makers.
said pesticides have permitted farmers to dramatically increase
food production. Today pesticides undergo about 120 tests that take
about 10 years to complete, he said.
environmentalists stress such testing is not the norm for many other
products. Tracey Easthope of the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor said
the nation needs to learn from the past.
reports from as far back as the early 1920s showed health dangers
associated with lead. Yet lead continued to be used in paint and
gasoline for decades before enough research was compiled to show
that it can cause irreversible health problems when it enters the
think the finding of chemicals in people's bodies is enough to take
action to reduce exposure to those chemicals," Easthope said.
Read the CDC report at www.cdc.gov/exposurereport, or call 866-670-6052,
9-5:30 weekdays for a free copy.