A coalition of groups that includes Greenpeace USA and Pesticide Action Network North America hosts a website called “The Body Burden” that suggests we should fear the appearance of trace chemicals in our bodies.(1) But there is no compelling body of evidence showing that the existence of trace chemicals in the human body is a problem. Relatively high exposures to certain chemicals, such as lead or arsenic, are another matter. A 2009 report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which monitors such chemicals in the human body, explains:
The presence of an environmental chemical in people’s blood or urine does not mean that it will cause effects or disease. The toxicity of a chemical is related to its dose or concentration, in addition to a person’s individual susceptibility. Small amounts may be of no health consequence, whereas larger amounts may cause adverse health effects. The toxicity of a chemical is related to its dose or concentration in addition to a person’s susceptibility.(2)
Accordingly, the fact that the human body may contain trace levels of chemicals should not raise alarm, particularly when we see no adverse effects. Even cavemen had chemicals in their bodies due to exposure to different chemicals coming from such activities as burning wood to cook food and heat homes. Today we find chemicals in the human body related to our lifestyles. The main difference is that people today live decades longer. And that is due in large part to chemicals that are used to provide health care, store food, and keep drinking water safe and clean.
Browse the terms on the sidebar of this webpage for more details and/or download a copy of A Consumer’s Guide to Chemical Risk: Deciphering the “Science” Behind Chemical Scares.
(1) Chemical Body Burden website.
(2) Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals (Atlanta: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2009.