What Kinds of Chemicals Are In Our Bodies?

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


There have been a few developments in the past week that indicate that we should probably pay more attention to the chemicals we are collecting in our bodies and what their impacts might be.

A study published last week in Environmental Health Perspectives looks at the presence of chemicals in the bodies of pregnant women, finding that 99 to 100 percent of pregnant women tested positive for a number of potentially hazardous chemicals. These include DDT, flame retardants, substances used to make non-stick pans, and phthalates, a variety of chemicals found in many beauty products and plastics. Tracey Woodruff, a professor at the University of California-San Francisco, conducted the study using data from the Centers for Disease Control.

While the study does not investigate how much risk those chemicals may pose to the women or their children, Woodruff notes in the school’s release that her results should encourage other researchers to take a closer look at the individual and cumulative impacts of the chemicals humans are exposed to on a daily basis:

“It was surprising and concerning to find so many chemicals in pregnant women without fully knowing the implications for pregnancy. Several of these chemicals in pregnant women were at the same concentrations that have been associated with negative effects in children from other studies. In addition, exposure to multiple chemicals that can increase the risk of the same adverse health outcome can have a greater impact than exposure to just one chemical,” Woodruff said.

The New York Times‘ Andy Revkin has a good post on why some of the headlines on this study may have been a bit misleading. But it’s certainly worth highlighting the need for additional research.

In a similar vein, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences held a three-day summit last week looking at the role of environmental chemicals in the development of obesity and diabetes. The meeting was designed to plan a research agenda on the subject.

Several studies in the past year have investigated potential links between chemical exposure and obesity. (See this study exploring the impacts of prenatal exposure to the “obesogen” tributyltin for one example.) Jennifer McPartland, a scientist with the Environmental Defense Fund, examinedsome of the developing science in this area in a blog post Wednesday, “Do these chemicals make me look fat?”

Are we sure that there are negative effects from all the chemicals we are exposed to? Of course not. But we’re also not sure that they’re safe—particularly not when you’re considering the potential cumulative and compounded effects.

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate