Toxic chemicals can be found in the bodies of every American. There are more than 80,000 chemicals produced and used in the United States. Of these, the EPA has been able to require testing on just 200 chemicals, and only five chemicals have been regulated.

Every woman, man and child now bears a slew of synthetic chemicals and heavy metals, referred to as our chemical body burden.

Scientific evidence increasingly indicates a relationship between human health and exposure to common contaminants.

Once in our bodies, toxic chemicals can wreak havoc. Exposure to contaminants has been linked to disruption of the hormone system, an underlying cause of harm to other body systems. Reproductive health problems such as infertility and miscarriage have been linked to exposure to synthetic chemicals. Exposure has also been linked to malfunctions in the nervous system, increased cancer risk, altered brain development and behavior, and numerous other adverse health effects.

How Do Contaminants Enter Our Bodies?

Contaminants enter our bodies through the air we breathe, the food and beverages we consume and through our skin. Even before we are born, we are exposed in utero.

Many toxic chemicals leach into the environment and enter our bodies without our knowledge or consent. For example:

  • Baby bottles and the lining of metal food cans may leach a harmful chemical known as bisphenol-A (BPA) pdf into food and beverages.
  • Certain flame retardant chemicals found in some furniture, foam padding, vehicles, electronics, and other consumer products bind to household dust and can be inhaled or ingested.
  • Chemicals used in personal care products such as phthalates pdf, are absorbed into our bodies directly through our skin. See the report Retailer Therapy for more information. Or visit the Environmental Working Group database to see how your favorite products rate.
  • Pesticide residues on conventionally-grown produce, and in meat and dairy can contaminate our food.
  • Certain chemicals that persist in the environment and build up (bioaccumulate) in the fat tissue of animals may contaminate subsistence foods, important to the traditional diet of Arctic Indigenous Peoples.
  • Contaminants from open dumpsites in rural Alaska and waste from formerly used defense sites and mining operations may also contaminate water and traditional food sources.