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A pioneering study of our body burden of toxic chemicals:

In a pioneering study, an Oakland Tribune reporter arranged to test the body burden of a Bay Area family for a suite of chemical pollutants. The results stunned everyone.


The shock was the high level of a class of flame retardants — polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs – in all members of a family which had been selected because they live as chemical-free a life as they can.  PBDE’s are used as flame retardants in everything from computer and TV casings to rugs to foam cushions. In the United States, where levels are 10 to 100 times higher than the rest of the world, the average adult is thought to have 36 parts per billion in their blood.


Laboratory analysis of the blood of a Berkeley family found surprisingly high levels of PBDEs, particularly in the children. The mother in this study had 138 ppb; the father, 102 ppb; the four-year-old daughter, 490 ppb; and the 20-month-old son, who is small for his age, 838 ppb. Scientists have reported behavioral changes in laboratory rats at 300 ppb.


The surprising result, scientists say, suggests infants and toddlers have vastly higher levels of some chemical pollutants than health officials consider safe.


This is our "body burden" our chemical legacy, picked up from our possessions, passed to our children and sown across the environment. We are all, in a sense, guinea pigs in an experiment on  the unknown long-term effect that flame retardants and other toxic chemicals pose in our bodies and, in particular, our children.


Our law does not require routine testing of chemicals, and critics contend required tests provide only limited information about new chemicals. The EPA has no power to order more testing or in many cases to make their information public, because the law protects data businesses claim as confidential.