Body Burden

We inhale, ingest and absorb toxic substances every day. Industrial chemicals are virtually everywhere – in the foods we eat, the products we buy, and in our homes and workplaces.

Some chemicals build up in our bodies, or bioaccumulate, throughout our lives (PBDEs, PCBs, and methylmercury, for example). Even those chemicals which the body can excrete, may be found in elevated levels in our bodies due to constant re-exposure (phthalates, for example).

Together, the industrial chemicals present in each of us add up to what is known as a “chemical body burden.”


Biomonitoring is a way of measuring the burden of toxic chemicals in people’s bodies. Biomonitoring measures actual levels of certain chemicals in blood, urine, breast milk and other tissues.
Alaska Community Action on Toxics partners with other non-governmental organizations on national biomonitoring projects.

Mind, Disrupted

Mind DisruptedWhat is the relationship between toxic chemicals and rising rates of autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and other learning and developmental disabilities?

Alaska Community Action on Toxics helped to facilitate a study by the Learning and Developmental Disabilities Initiative to identify toxic chemicals in the bodies of people in the Learning and Developmental Disability (LDD) community.

Twelve leaders and self-advocates from the LDD community stepped forward to have their bodies tested for the presence of a set of chemicals known or suspected to be neurotoxic (hazardous to nerve cells) or endocrine disrupting. Sixty-one toxic chemicals were found in the bodies of project participants. The Mind, Disrupted report is a synthesis of the results of these tests and the experiences of participants. It explores pressing questions and actions we can take to reduce exposures that may impair how we think—and, in the most basic ways, who we are.

Chemicals in the Bodies of Doctors and Nurses

Hazardous Chemicals in Health Care

Hazardous Chemicals in Health Care: A Snapshot of Chemicals in Doctors and Nurses details the first investigation of chemicals found in the bodies of health care professionals, including two Alaskan participants. The report was released by Alaska Community Action on Toxics, in partnership with Physicians for Social Responsibility, American Nurses Association and Health Care Without Harm in 2009.

The project tested for 62 distinct chemicals in six categories: bisphenol-A, mercury, perfluorinated compounds, phthalates, polybrominated dipheynl ethers, and triclosan. The chemicals tested in the investigation are used in products common to the health care setting—from baby bottles, hand sanitizers, and medical gauges, to industrial paints, IV bags and tubes, and stain-resistant clothing.

The project results found that all 20 project participants had toxic chemicals associated with the health care profession in their bodies. Each participant had at least 24 individual chemicals present, four of which are on the 2009 EPA list of priority chemicals for regulation. These chemicals are all associated with chronic illness and physical disorders. The Hazardous Chemicals in Health Care report offers preliminary indicators of what the broader health care community may be experiencing.

Chemicals Contamination in Our Bodies

Is it in us? Report Cover

Thirty-five Americans from seven states participated in a national biomonitoring project in 2007. Each participant was tested for contamination by 20 toxic chemicals from three chemical families: phthalates, bisphenol-A (BPA) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) used as flame retardants. The project found toxic chemicals in every person tested.