Skip to content

Information and Resources

Household Chemicals May Show Up in Blood

Study by Environmental Group Shows Toxic Chemicals End Up in Blood Samples
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

May 1, 2009 -- Up to 48 toxic chemicals commonly used in everyday consumer products have shown up in blood and urine samples of five prominent women environmental activists, according to a study by the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization devoted to protecting human health and the environment.

"Testing was primarily targeted toward products used in everyday consumer products that have escaped regulation under the Toxic Substances Control Act," Anila Jacob, MD, MPH, a senior scientist with the organization, said at a news briefing.

The findings, according to Jacob and others from Environmental Working Group, offer more proof that the Toxic Substances Control Act is antiquated and needs a major overhaul to protect Americans from the adverse effects of chemicals found in everyday products.

Companies should be required to prove their products are safe before they go on the market, Environmental Working Group scientists say.

While some officials from the chemical industry support modernization of the Toxic Substances Control Act, they contend that the sampling system used in the report provides only a snapshot in time, without enough details on exposure to prove an adverse effect on health.

The Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 gives the Environmental Protection Agency authority to oversee chemical substances and mixtures, but generally excludes food, drugs, cosmetics, and pesticides.

In February, Congress held the first of what is expected to be several hearings on the law's reform.

Toxic Chemicals Study

The Environmental Working Group study, funded by Rachel's Network, an organization of women environmentalists, took two years to complete. Researchers sampled the activists' blood and urine and analyzed them for toxic chemicals, using four independent laboratories.

"In each of these women we found at least one controversial chemical," says Sonya Lunder, MPH, a senior analyst with the Environmental Working Group and a co-author of the report. To be termed controversial, she says, a chemical must be one whose safety is being debated.

"In everyone we found fire retardants, Teflon chemicals, fragrances, bisphenol A or BPA, and perchlorate," she tells WebMD.

Flame retardants are found in foam furniture, televisions, and computers. Teflon is used in nonstick coatings and grease-resistant food packaging. BPA is a plastics chemical; perchlorate, a rocket fuel ingredient, can contaminate tap water and food. Fragrances have been associated with hormone disruption in animal studies.

Every woman tested positive for up to 60% of the 75 chemicals evaluated, the report found.

The women live far apart: in Green Bay, Wis.; New Orleans; Corpus Christi, Texas; and Oakland, Calif. But their toxic chemical load is similar, according to the Environmental Working Group scientists.

Each woman had at least one chemical at a high percentile --such as the 81st percentile for bisphenol A, meaning her level of chemicals was higher than all but 19% of Americans who have been tested.

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing