There are currently more than 85,000 chemicals produced and used in the United States. Many of these chemicals are ingredients in the products we and our families use in our daily lives. But only a few, other than medications and some pesticides, have been thoroughly tested and assessed for safety (Harvard News/Sustainability. The Devil You Know. September 16, 2015).

Every woman, man, and child around the world now carries a mix of synthetic chemicals and heavy metals in their bodies, 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 harm our health and the health of future generations. 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 man-made chemicals. Toxic exposures have also been linked to malfunctions of the nervous system, increased cancer risk, altered brain development and behavior, and numerous other health harms.

How Do Contaminants Enter Our Bodies?

Contaminants enter our bodies through the air we breathe, the food and beverages we consume, and 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 can leach a harmful chemical known as bisphenol-A 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 through the nose or mouth.
  • Chemicals used in cosmetics and personal care products such as phthalates and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are absorbed into our bodies directly through our skin. Visit the Environmental Working Group database to see how your favorite products rate.
  • Pesticide residues on conventionally grown produce and in meat and dairy products can contaminate our food.
  • Certain chemicals that persist in the environment and build up (bioaccumulate) in the fat tissue of animals can contaminate traditional wild foods important to the traditional diet of Arctic Indigenous Peoples.
  • Contaminants from open dumpsites in rural Alaska and waste from formerly used defense sites (FUDS) and mining operations may also contaminate water and traditional food sources.

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