Testing for Pollution in People’s Bodies Is on the Rise

A new “biomonitoring” movement is taking off with the aim of measuring pollution levels in people’s bodies. Scientists are increasingly testing people’s blood, urine, and breast milk for the presence of dangerous chemicals, such as dioxins, PCBs, and DDT. Breast cancer activists in particular are promoting biomonitoring as a possible way to discover what’s been causing high rates of the disease in recent decades. The Breast Cancer Fund, a nonprofit group, is pushing legislation that would make California the first state to regularly test breast milk and other bodily fluids for harmful chemicals. “When breast milk talks, people listen,” says Jeanne Rizzo, executive director of the fund. More than 85,000 synthetic chemicals have been introduced in the last 50 years, and more than 90 percent of them have not been tested for effects on human health.