Daily News Archive

Blood Tests Reveal Pesticide Contamination
(Beyond Pesticides, December 2, 2003)
A cocktail of highly toxic chemicals has been found in every one of the 155 people whose blood was tested in a national study commissioned by World Wildlife Fund, United Kingdom (WWF UK).

ContamiNATION, The Results of WWF's Biomonitoring Survey reveals that chemicals, such as DDT, which have been banned for decades and are associated with cancer, immune system disorders, and other health problems, are still found in people today. Other dangerous chemicals that are still in use are also accumulating, including hazardous pesticides known as organophosphates. Organophosphate chemicals bind irreversibly to acetylcholine esterase (AchE), an essential enzyme for normal nerve impulse transmission and can seriously affect the nervous system, cardiovascular system, and respiratory system.

"The UK study provides a wake-up call for action, as have similar bio-monitoring studies in the US and elsewhere, to reform the inadequate chemical laws that have resulted in contamination of wildlife and individuals by a cocktail of highly dangerous chemicals," said Clifton Curtis, director of WWF's Global Toxics Program. "New laws and regulations, such as the EU chemicals policy reforms now underway, are needed as an urgent priority to protect human health and the environment from the insidious threat of toxic chemicals."

In the United States, there is growing interest in biomonitoring or body burden testing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the Second National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, which detected a total of 89 chemicals in the volunteers tested, including selected organophosphate pesticides, herbicides, pest repellents and disinfectants. The Environmental Working Group (EWG), in partnership with Mt. Sinai School of Community Medicine and Commonweal, released a similar study, Body Burden: The Pollution In People, in which subjects contained an average of 91 compounds, most of which did not exist 75 years ago. This story was covered in the February 4, 2003 edition of Daily News.

The WWF study analyzed blood samples for 77 chemicals including PCBs, used in industrial electrical equipment, certain types of pesticides, and brominated flame retardants. Long-banned PCBs and a breakdown product of the pesticide DDT were found in 99 percent of those tested.

"This report shows us that it doesn't matter who we are or where we live. We are all contaminated by industrial chemicals which have not been properly assessed for their safety before they are unleashed upon us," said Justin Woolford, leader of WWF-UK's Chemicals in Health Campaign. "The number and concentrations of chemicals found are deplorable. We are unwittingly playing Russian roulette with our health because of regulatory inaction."

Those whose health has been adversely affected by pesticides are encouraged to report their exposure to Beyond Pesticides. By filling out a Pesticide Incident Record, victims can fully document an exposure and help Beyond Pesticides build a strong case for pesticide reform. Contact Beyond Pesticides for more information.