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16
Dec

CDC Issues Fourth National Report on Body Burden of Toxic Chemicals

(Beyond Pesticides, December 16, 2009) The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published its Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals – the most comprehensive assessment to date of the exposure of the U.S. population to chemicals in our environment. CDC measures 212 chemicals in people’s blood or urine – 75 of which have been measured for the first time in the U.S. population. One of the new chemicals included in this report is triclosan, a common and hazardous antibacterial agent.

In this Fourth Report, 75 new chemicals were added. Chemicals in the Fourth Report include metals such as lead, cadmium, uranium, mercury, and speciated forms of arsenic; environmental phenols such as bisphenol-A (BPA); acrylamide; perfluorinated chemicals; polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs); polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs); volatile organic compounds such as benzene, styrene and methyl tert-butyl ether; pesticides; phthalates; and dioxins, furans and related chemicals.

The data analyzed in the Fourth Report are based on blood and urine samples that were collected from approximately 2400 people who participated in CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 2003 through 2004. NHANES is an ongoing national health survey of the non-institutionalized U.S. population that includes collecting and analyzing blood and urine samples to help further research involving exposures and health effects.

The types of exposure information found in the report can help physicians and public health officials determine whether people have been exposed to higher environmental chemicals as well as help scientists plan and conduct research about health effects. Much of the information has been previously published, but this is the first publication of all the data in one place. The report does not provide new health effects information. Research separate from that compiled in the Fourth Report is needed to determine whether higher levels of environmental chemicals in blood or urine are related to health effects.

Triclosan, a widely-used antibacterial pesticide found in products from countertops to toothpaste, is found in the urine of 75% of the U.S. population, with higher levels in people in their third decade of life and among people with the highest household income. Triclosan is shown to alter thyroid function, is linked to bacterial and compounded antibiotic resistance, dioxin contamination and contamination of surface waters and sewage sludge. Other studies have found that due to its extensive use in consumer goods, triclosan and its metabolites are present in, fish, umbilical cord blood and human milk.

Pesticides like synthetic pyrethroids were included for the second time. The report finds that exposure continues to be widespread, specifically for permethrin, cypermethrin, deltamethrin, and/or their metabolites which were all found in greater than 50% of the subjects tested. Exposure to synthetic pyrethroids has been reported to trigger asthma, lead to headaches, dizziness and nausea. There are also serious chronic health concerns related to synthetic pyrethroids. EPA classifies both permethrin and cypermethrin as possible human carcinogens, based on evidence of lung tumors in lab animals exposed to these chemicals. Many synthetic pyrethroids have been linked to disruption of the endocrine system, which can adversely affect reproduction and sexual development, interfere with the immune system, and increase chances of breast cancer.

Beyond Pesticides is actively working with other environmental and community groups to ban the non-medical uses of triclosan. In July and again in December 2008, Beyond Pesticides, Food and Water Watch, Greenpeace US, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club and dozens of public health and environmental groups from the U.S. and Canada, urged the agency to use its authority to cancel the non-medical uses of the antibacterial chemical triclosan in order to protect human health and the environment. For more information, visit our Antibacterial Program page.

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