Americans’ bodies harbor numerous toxins, big study finds

The largest-ever study of human chemical exposure shows that Americans are carrying dozens of potentially harmful toxic compounds in their bodies. Researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control tested some 2,400 people in 2000 and 2001 and found more than 100 worrying compounds, many with known links to health threats, many present in larger doses in children than in adults. Some news is good: Dramatically reduced child lead levels are an “astonishing public health achievement,” according to CDC Director Julie Gerberding. Some results are mixed: Lower overall amounts of cotinine, a chemical found in second-hand smoke, are credited to antismoking laws; however, levels in African-Americans are roughly twice those in whites and Hispanics. Some findings are just grim: The study found that 5 percent of those tested have doses of three kinds of phthalates exceeding those associated with genital abnormalities in boys, and 76 percent of the population tested carried potentially neurotoxic pyrethroid pesticides. Says a specialist in children’s environmental health, “We have fouled our own nest.”