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Science News

Measuring Pollution In Humans 423

Posted by Hemos
from the you-come-out-to-3.5%-filthy dept.
CHaN_316 writes "Scientists have begun measuring pollutants in our body and the results sound like a chemical clean-up site. They've found things such as flame retardants, chemicals derived from DDTs, mercury, uranium, cotinine, and many more. The concern is a lot of this stuff is ending up in mother's milk. But hey, at least in the event of spontaneous combustion, I'll be partially protected."
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Measuring Pollution In Humans

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  • by Locky (608008) on Monday December 29, 2003 @09:02AM (#7826943) Homepage
    Drink more Water.
    • Except for the fact that our water is now laden with all sort of pharmaceutical enhancements, which often makes its way through wastewater treatment systems. If enough people keep taking Viagra and Prozac, we'll all be walking around with smiles on our faces and woodies down below...
      • by miracle69 (34841) on Monday December 29, 2003 @09:33AM (#7827055)
        Except for the fact that our water is one of the main reasons that expected lifespan has exploded over the past 100 years. I mean, when was the last time 50% of the population in a U.S. community under 10 died from cholera?

        When you're expected to live to 75 and you're worried about the quality of the stuff that allows you to live that long, perhaps the problem is that you *ARE* living that long.
      • > Except for the fact that our water is now laden with all sort of pharmaceutical enhancements, which often makes its way through wastewater treatment systems. If enough people keep taking Viagra and Prozac, we'll all be walking around with smiles on our faces and woodies down below...

        And how, precisely, is this a problem?

        Oh wait. The women, too, you mean. Eew.

    • Drink more Water.

      DONT DO THAT!
      Your body is 98% water! You'll drown!
    • It happens in marathons: http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A9158-200 3Oct23?language=printer. Fatigue or some pain-killers like ibrofprofen can distort the sense of thirst.
    • by jc42 (318812) on Monday December 29, 2003 @10:23AM (#7827284) Homepage Journal
      This might be an opportune time to mention the campaign to Do Something about the growing danger posed by dihydrogen monoxide [dhmo.org] in the environment and in our very bodies.

      One of my favorite bits is the reference to "award-winning U.S. scientist Nathan Zohner" who showed that "scientist Nathan Zohner concluded that roughly 86 percent of the population supports a ban on dihydrogen monoxide." This is true [snopes.com].

      If you're a /. reader, you should be familiar with this story.

      • by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Monday December 29, 2003 @01:19PM (#7828398)
        This might be an opportune time to mention the campaign to Do Something about the growing danger posed by dihydrogen monoxide in the environment and in our very bodies.

        This substance (H2O) has an even more obscure name in the IUPAC chemical naming system: "ozane" (H-saturated oxygen). It is so rarely used you can't even find it in Google.

        "Trihydrogen mononitride" (NH3) has its own IUPAC name too: "azane".

    • "everything you 'know' is wrong" :-)
      Please see: Snopes.com [snopes.com]
  • And they told me I'd have to have a private lab do it for me - and pay dearly for it! Why the hell won't they test my drinking water without my having to pay for it? Isn't delivering water that's reasonably free of contaminants part of their responsibility?
    • Sure it is, and for the most part the city water departments think they're doing a bang up job.

      What your asking for is oversight, and audit... and frankly I agree with them. If you want to audit the quality of their work, you should pay for it. Also, I would think you'd want an independent 3rd party doing the work anyway. I do disagree with them about it costing dearly, I have a friend who works in a lab that does 'walk up' business on water, food and so forth and I wanna say, depending on the subject

    • by nharmon (97591) on Monday December 29, 2003 @09:22AM (#7827009) Homepage
      When you say 'county', I'm assuming you were refering to your county's health department, or equivalent. If so, then to answer your question, no it is not. The only way they will step in is if there is major contamination.

      Concerns involving the purity of drinking water should be addressed to your water department. But even then, the standards they have to meet are not very strict, and they will probably tell you the same thing.

      As for me, I am a firm believer that no tap water is safe for human consumption, so I've decided to purify drinking water at home. Food tastes much better when cooked in clean water.
      • by HeghmoH (13204) on Monday December 29, 2003 @09:34AM (#7827062) Homepage Journal
        I am a firm believer that no tap water is safe for human consumption

        I mostly believe the opposite. Remember that before the invention of tap water, people drank out of rivers and streams that ran over lead and mercury deposits and had animals (and people) shitting in them. We can tolerate a good deal of crud in the stuff we consume.

        That's not to say that pure water isn't preferred, but I wouldn't go as far as to say that tap water is unfit for human consumption altogether.
        • Sure, people did at one time drink water from natural sources (springs, rivers, etc.) But that was then, this is now.

          In recent history, we have seen an unprecedented chemical change in the Earth's environment. This is probably due to our increased dependance on chemicals. Over the last 50 years, we have added over 50,000 chemicals to every use from household cleaning to manufactoring. It should be no big surprise that these chemicals have made their way to our drinking water.

          And these chemicals contribute
        • You've got to take into account that we've been adding stuff to the water like chlorine and flouride, which are pretty toxic substances even in small quantities and which cause thousands of cases of cancer each year. Fluoride has been rejected by the majority of europe yet us americans still drink it. It's been known to screw around with enzymes in the brain even in low quantities, not to mention how it gets concentrated in other products like sodapop and other products at the store or in fruit that's bee
        • on a recent business trip to Manhatten, I asked the hotel front desk about getting drinking water.
          they told me that's why the glass is in my room and that the water that supplies Manhatten is potable!

          my family has used water filters in Southern California since the early seventies, so drinking out of the tap has always seemed strange to me..

          here in Russia, the cold water is extremely cloudy, and while taking a hot shower, the water will sometimes go brown, yuck. i either boil or purchase all my water her
          • Generally, it is safer to drink tap water than filtered water water in the US.

            A lot of the coin op filtering stations have turned up to be very lousy on health inspections. Even some bottled water has failed inspections.

            If your water goes brown, it is likely to be your plumbing, though in select cases it can be the street pipes.
      • If you contact your water department, I think they're obligated to at least tell you what precautions they're already taking regarding your water, including the results of the last round of tests. I strongly suspect they'll send you a long, detailed, and boring packet of information. Generally, water departments are quite thorough, and federal regulations are mostly pretty strict.

        If your water does not appear to match what the water department says it's sending out, then there are three possibilities: it

      • Concerns involving the purity of drinking water should be addressed to your water department. But even then, the standards they have to meet are not very strict, and they will probably tell you the same thing.

        Guess it just depends ... my city brags about their water quality, sends out a detailed analysis report annually, and their literature pratically chortles over the astronomical price difference between the city water and bottled water that is no better.

        It's a university town too, so I suspect that

    • by turbosk (73287) on Monday December 29, 2003 @10:06AM (#7827186)
      IAAAC (I am an analytical chemist) who worked directly with testing water samples from municipal water treatment facilities, schools, and private clients. The Clean Water Drinking Act of 1976 mandates standards for community water suppliers, including standards for lead, iron, biologicals, copper, manganese, aluminum, nitrates, organics, chlorine, turbidity, etc. Your public water company has to have its water tested at a certified lab monthly, and if any of the parameters are out of whack, the EPA will hear about it faster than you can say "boo".

      Saying your county won't pay for your water to be analyzed is a little untrue/misleading. Ask your water comany to send you results of the tests they have done. On the other hand, if you get your water from a private well, then the onus of testing IS on you. And as your /. analytical chemist, I *highly* reccomend you get at least the lead, aluminum, and E coli numbers on your well water.

      pax,
      fred
  • $5,000 a test?! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Wow are we in the wrong business.
    What kind of scam is that for blood and possibly urine workups?
    • Re:$5,000 a test?! (Score:3, Informative)

      by snot.dotted (627646)
      Testing 116 different chemicals is hard work, for a start not all the chemicals can be tested on one instrument, for instance they looked a uranium and other heavy metals, a inductively coupled Mass spectrometer isn't cheap 250,0000 and the mercury well that is tested on a special instrument to check for low levels. The organic molecules need to be tested on tandem LC mass spctrometers and also head space GC-MS. An enviromental lab could well be kitted out wil up to $2-5 million US dollars worth of the late
  • by kfg (145172) on Monday December 29, 2003 @09:06AM (#7826958)
    report that bodies are taking up to 10% longer to decompose than they used to from all the BHA and BHT added to preserve freshness.

    Live fast, eat a lot of antioxidant ladden potato chips, leave a durable, good looking (if somewhat corpulent) corpse.

    Gives you more time for a clean dehydration as well, so you can make that trip to Orion in all your leathery splendor.

    KFG
  • Healthy future ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by foobsr (693224) on Monday December 29, 2003 @09:07AM (#7826960) Homepage Journal
    Milloy noted that despite all the chemicals, the overall U.S. population is living longer and healthier.

    I do not know about the U.S., but things are different in Germany.

    [QUOTE]
    Overweight & Diabetes in Germany Due to overweight, obesity and inactive lifestyles, the number of people with diabetes is set to double from five million to 10 million in Germany in the next 10 years, doctors warned at a meeting of the German Society for Internal Medicine in Wiesbaden this week. Most worrying is the number of young people who are developing type 2 diabetes because of obesity. Unlike type 1 diabetes - an autoimmune disease that usually develops in children or young adults - type 2 diabetes is linked to obesity and lifestyle, and has traditionally been seen in mainly middle-aged and older adults.
    [UNQUOTE] ( c.f. here [weight-loss-i.com] )

    CC.
    • by Dachannien (617929) on Monday December 29, 2003 @09:26AM (#7827031)
      Type 2 diabetes is becoming a great concern in the U.S. as well, especially in children - an abundance of very fatty foods and a decrease in physical activity are among the causes.

      I think Milloy's point, however, is that life expectancy has increased tremendously over the past hundred years, although medical advances probably greatly outweigh any negatives caused by pollutants.

      • I read something about this a few years ago.

        According to the author, while life expectancy has gone up in the last hunderd years, it isn't happending because people are living any longer than before. The rise is a result of dramatically reduced rates of infant mortality.

        Once the infant mortality rates are removed from the life expectancy formula, people are only living a few years longer than they did a hundred years ago.
        • by Smidge204 (605297) on Monday December 29, 2003 @11:19AM (#7827558) Journal
          Are infant deaths factored into life expectancy calculations?

          http://mathworld.wolfram.com/LifeExpectancy.html

          Seems to me that at least the above method has a built-in correction. That they are actually measuring is the number of people (% of population) who die within age catagory x. If x is ages 30-40, then it has decreased in the past 100 years. If x is 70-80, then it has increased in the past 100 years.

          The conclusion is that more people are reaching the 70-80 age group, and therefore people pn average are living longer.

          At least that's my understanding...
          =Smidge=
      • by jc42 (318812) on Monday December 29, 2003 @10:11AM (#7827221) Homepage Journal
        ... is that life expectancy has increased tremendously over the past hundred years,

        And, of course, this is one of the primary examples in intro statistics courses to explain why you need to know more than just such a sound-bite claim. It turns out that "life expectancy" is generally defined as the mean age at death, and almost all the change has been in eliminating causes of death before age 5. Life expectancy at ages 20 and up haven't changed all that much, despite all the medical advances. There has been a small improvement in advanced countries, mostly due to the elimination of some infectious diseases. OTOH, in some parts of the world, life expectancy past childhood has decreased in the past few decades.

        My wife, whose specialy in grad school was medical economics & statistics, likes to invite people to take a stroll through graveyards around here (New England) and note the ages at death. She actually did this for a class, and found that for people who lived past 50, the mean age of death was the same 100, 200 and 300 years ago as it is today. The difference is that there are now very few child graves.

        She also had a bit of fun in class by pointing out all the problems with her own "study", such as the question of what portion of the population was buried in graves that still exist. Such problems are rife in every such statistical claim.

        • by sam the lurker (209655) on Monday December 29, 2003 @01:37PM (#7828569)
          Life expectancy at ages 20 and up haven't changed all that much...


          The National Center for Health Statistics doesn't quite agree with you.
          Life expectancy by age, race, and sex, 1900-2000 U.S. Life Tables, 2000, table 11 [cdc.gov]
          Summary: A person that reached 20 years of age between 1900-1902 could expect to live until they were 62.79 years of age. A person that reached 20 years of age in the year 2000 could expect to live until they were 77.8 years of age.
          15 extra years sounds tremendous to me. ;-)
      • life expectancy has increased tremendously over the past hundred years, although medical advances probably greatly outweigh any negatives caused by pollutants

        Actually, the major part of the increase in average life expectancy predated most medical advances, and is almost certainly the result in improvements in public health (e.g. less shit in our water). I believe there's a bit of a blip when antibiotics came in, but that's about it.
      • by jfisherwa (323744)
        "... an abundance of very fatty foods and a decrease in physical activity are among the causes."

        Perhaps you meant an abundance of easily-accessible complex carbohydrates and refined sugars that allow our children to get a sugar high from every meal of the day.

        Blood-sugar level spiking -> accumulative insulin resistance -> ineffective pancreas -> type-2 diabetes.

        Please see how insulin [wikipedia.org] works .. and when [aace.com] it [wikipedia.org] doesn't [wch.org.au]. Simple answer? Less carbohydrates [wikipedia.org], more protein [wikipedia.org].

        Regards,
    • That is one disease that is on the rise, as opposed to the many, many more diseases that are much deadlier, on the decline. And I can assure you that obesity is a larger problem in the US than in Germany.

      A better way to frame your argument might be "in spite of all the chemicals inside of us, we are still living longer. As it stands though, youre just using anectdotal, overly specific evidence- I mean, someone could make a case that there has been an increase in car crashes over the past 100 years too, a
    • Milloy noted that despite all the chemicals, the overall U.S. population is living longer and healthier.

      I guess that's why the rate of cancer [cancer.gov] has dramatically increased in the last 30 years. It's interesting that it started to decline in 1991. I wonder what happened then???
      • by TheSync (5291) on Monday December 29, 2003 @10:28AM (#7827301) Journal
        I bet in 1991 people started to stop smoking in large numbers...

        It is not suprising that cancer rates increase as the population lives longer, as if you don't die from other things, eventually a chance mutation, virus provided oncogene, and/or telomere shortening will begin carcinogenesis.

        If you look at countries with very low life expectancy, cancer rates are very low as well.
      • by jc42 (318812)
        It's interesting that [the rate of cancer] started to decline in 1991. I wonder what happened then???

        A number of things. One of the more interesting here in the US was the ban on EDB (ethylene dibromide) back in 1983. This was a bit of a political fuss at the time, with farmers and commentators using the argument that "scientists hadn't been able to measure the danger" of this compound.

        This has turned into a useful textbook example of "spin". I heard an article from NPR (National Public Radio) in whi
    • > Overweight & Diabetes in Germany Due to overweight, obesity and inactive lifestyles, the number of people with diabetes is set to double from five million to 10 million in Germany in the next 10 years... [T]ype 2 diabetes is linked to obesity and lifestyle, and has traditionally been seen in mainly middle-aged and older adults.

      There have been similar concerns voiced by health authorities in the US as well as here in Australia. Saw a news story about it on the ABC a week or two ago, in fact.
  • by plinius (714075) on Monday December 29, 2003 @09:07AM (#7826966)
    A recent article in Science News (a journal) described how one class of flame retardants called PBDEs are more common in the US than in Europe and how blood levels in Americans are on average 10 times higher. It also says there may be a link to ADD, which is also more common in the US. Maybe your next futon should be an organic one?
  • Bad idea (Score:2, Funny)

    by ajs (35943)
    Measuring pollution in humans? Bad idea. I mean, imagine the confusion, "so bob, how's the weather today?"

    "Well, it's not good. Three, maybe four humans and there's no wind to blow them out to sea."

    "You sick, sick man...."
    • And just three or four ppm of humans in the atmosphere increases wind resistence something fierce, not to mention being a bit hard on the windhshield and chrome.

      Maybe I should go into the Bug, Tar & Intestinal Tract Remover business.

      KFG
  • Since we are all living longer than any generation before us why would I bother? I mean, I might be exposed to more chemicals than people during the middleages but they also died from a simple cold so whats the big issue? I COULD stop smoking though and go for a walk in the park from time to time. That would gain me another 10years...wouldnt it? Naah! Not now! Everquest is waiting... ;-)

    cu,
    Lispy
  • Well you have to wonder if any preservatives have got into peoples bodies and make them live longer

    Rus
    • by peter303 (12292)
      Some health food store sell the additive BHT as an anti-oxidant. There are herbal verisons according to google.
  • Toxic Treatments (Score:2, Informative)

    by AndroidCat (229562)
    All the worry over dangerous chemicals in your body spells one thing to various quackery groups: Market!

    Make sure any program/treatment promising detoxification isn't just a come-on or quackery or worse like Scientology in drag [religionnewsblog.com] peddling Elronics to firefighters. (Nothing wrong with a little bit of sauna, but all that Niacin can cause liver damage.)

    Make sure that the wonderful treatment to rid your body of harmful dangerous chemicals isn't even more dangerous.

  • Avoiding pesticides (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Via_Patrino (702161)
    To reduce pesticides in fruits that you eat the rind (like apples), wash them with water and *soap*. Just water won't work because pesticides are oily (not soluble in water), to avoid being washed by the rain.

    After that, wash well just with water (and leave them for a while in water before that if you wan't) to remove all the soap. Soap can also harm your health.
  • But hey, at least in the event of spontaneous combustion, I'll be partially protected.

    Ummm, which part exactly...
  • The resilient body (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tempelherr (559964) <thunder35 AT hotmail DOT com> on Monday December 29, 2003 @09:23AM (#7827012) Homepage
    Honestly, I am rather amazed at the human body's ability to seemingly tolerate the presence of these toxic chemicals for at least the short term.

    Unfortunately, it is rather difficult to say what will happen in the long term.

    With such chemicals like DDT, which continues to remain at high levels in the surrounding environment despite having been banned in 1970. I wrote a couple papers on the role of DDT in the decline of the Californian Condor, and it is really a scary chemical.

    Some scientists are even beginning to look at a link between DDT levels and breast cancer, as DDT and several other pesticides, which are absorbed and stored long-term in fat, also are capable of causing hormonal changes by acting much like estrogen. The unnatural changes caused by the continuing presence and buildup of DDT in mammary tissue could understandably be a large factor in the rising occurence of breast cancer. It could also have some particularly negative affect in men as well, as it acts as a blocker to the normal male hormones.

    And that is just one of the chemicals commonly found in the body, as described in the article...

  • We're worried that these things might end up in the mother's milk.

    O, the humanity.

    Pray tell, if it ends up in the mother's milk, then don't you think it'll get into the baby without going through the mother's breast first?

    That's like saying: "Aha. Look. That woman is on fire. We need to figure out a way to keep her from burning her child."

    Odds are, the child is going to catch fire, and it won't be from the mother. Maybe you should figure out why she's on fire. It ain't spontaneous combustion. Whatever c
    • The concern over mother's milk is not completely without merit. There is no guarantee that the child will be exposed until he is older. There are lots of substances out there which are mostly harmless to adults, but harmful to children and babies. To take the first one off the top of my head, alcohol in moderation is fine for adults, but give it to a baby and you probably end up with developmental problems. Even chemicals which cause health problems in adults may be worse for the baby; slightly increased ri
    • don't you think it'll get into the baby without going through the mother's breast first?

      I get your point, but maybe you aren't remembering how the whole nursing scene works? During the first, oh, six months of life, babies that are breastfed basically get all their nourishment from mom. They're not eating fish themselves, no. And their nervous system isn't a fully-developed adult one at that time, it's developing -- so mercury, say, can do more damage to them.

      (And I don't know -- in the world of US poli

      • I get your point, but maybe you aren't remembering how the whole nursing scene works? During the first, oh, six months of life, babies that are breastfed basically get all their nourishment from mom. They're not eating fish themselves, no. And their nervous system isn't a fully-developed adult one at that time, it's developing -- so mercury, say, can do more damage to them.

        Ah.. You've been drawn into the "Mother's milk is best for the baby" campaign. It might be, and it might not be. It all depends.

        • The iron in breastmilk is far better absorbed in the baby's system than the iron in infant formulas. So breastmilk doesn't need to have more iron.

          Yours is the first time I've heard of a breastfed baby being jaundiced for longer than the first couple weeks (I'm assuming, you didn't say). It can't be that common.

          Infant formula has its own laundry list of issues that crop up. Namely, recalls (contaminants getting into the final product) and digestive problems. Babies that have trouble digesting ANYTHING
          • The iron in breastmilk is far better absorbed in the baby's system than the iron in infant formulas. So breastmilk doesn't need to have more iron.

            No - Breastmilk doesn't naturally have ENOUGH Iron. The mother has to take supplements.

            Yours is the first time I've heard of a breastfed baby being jaundiced for longer than the first couple weeks (I'm assuming, you didn't say). It can't be that common.

            It is common, but like I said, there is a campaign to push breast milk. You don't hear about breast mil

  • by blankmange (571591) on Monday December 29, 2003 @09:25AM (#7827024)
    Enough to give you a bit of a pause, isn't it? All of these pollutants that we have dumped into the environment, now coming home to roost in us.

    As far as a solution - how to clean yourself up?? It may be too late for that; water is contaminated, air is contaminated, food is contaminated --- time to set up that vacuum-pod in some sort of earth orbit....

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 29, 2003 @09:26AM (#7827027)
    I am a chemist, and I am certain that there is no content of value in this article. We have analytical techniques that can detect chemicals at parts per trillion or less. Pointing out that we can find traces of the breakdown products of nicotine, flame retardents, DDT, etc is meaningless unless you actually say:

    1: How much
    2: How toxic it is

    The truth is, you are a thousand times more likely to die driving to the store to buy your fruits and veges than you are to die from the trace amounts of pesticides on the food. Everything you eat contains hundreds of toxic chemicals in some amount. Every drop of sea water contains 50 BILLION gold atoms, for perspective. Do people farm the ocean for gold?

    Do not let chemical scare-stories alarm you. 99% of them are full of it.
    • by Emexies (470069) <warpedeye@gmail . c om> on Monday December 29, 2003 @10:28AM (#7827300)
      Pointing out that we can find traces of the breakdown products of nicotine, flame retardents, DDT, etc is meaningless unless you actually say:

      1: How much
      2: How toxic it is
      OK, so in order to believe something, we need solid facts. I'm with you so far.
      The truth is, you are a thousand times more likely to die driving to the store to buy your fruits and veges than you are to die from the trace amounts of pesticides on the food. Everything you eat contains hundreds of toxic chemicals in some amount.
      Didn't you just point out that we shouldn't believe things unless we're given facts, yet you still try to tell us that what you're saying is the truth, without backing it up?

      So, your statement is as believable as the article?
    • Don't forget the trade-offs of using something. If you look at the banning of flame-retardant on the idea that it might cause harm*. You need to look at the positive benefits like how many lives are saved, fires prevented or controlled, and injuries prevented or reduced

      *Hazard studies have not yet been completed for the flame retardant. All I could find was that it has been found in breast milk (no mention of concentration), and is bioaccumulative (meaning it doesn't really leave the body). The only me
    • The domino effect is what people should be concerned about. Short term toxicity is probably not a problem but you are obviously more knowledgable about that than I am since I am not a chemist.

      It isn't death from pesticides on food you should be concerned about. It is the huge and growing dead zone [amrivers.org] in Louisiana on the Mississippi Delta that you should be concerned about.

      It isn't death from air pollution you should be concerned about. It is the rising rates of Asthma [uchsc.edu] you should be worried about. Or the
  • How can I get into the "Charging 5 Grand to Collect Body Fluids" business?

    Lifespan and quality of life has exploded in the past 100 years, and this dude is worried about some small concentrations of the stuff that has allowed this in his body?

    Now what is he going to do?

    Maybe I should get into the 50 Grand/pop "Home Environment Purification" business.
  • Shhhhhhh! (Score:5, Funny)

    by CodePyro (627236) on Monday December 29, 2003 @09:30AM (#7827042)
    Don't tell the terrorists that there might tbe uranium in their body...They might try to blow themselves up...ohh wait they do that anyways...
  • Washing up liquid! Why do folk insist on leaving these chemicals on food utensils? Do we really have to beat sense into them or serve them food with large doses of added "lemon fresh -squeaky clean" before it penetrates their thick skulls?

    http://www.nielsenchemicals.com/datashts/dshy_w a sh liqu.htm

    11. TOXICOLOGICAL INFORMATION:
    MEDICAL SYMPTOMS:
    EYES AND MUCOUS MEMBRANES. Irritation of eyes and mucous membranes. DIGESTIVE SYSTEM. Gastrointestinal symptoms, including upset stomach. MOUTH AND THROAT. Irr
    • i'm interested to know, it has come to my attention that Great Britain calls it 'washing up liquid'. is Australia the same? New Zealand?

      basically, all the commonwealth (or former commonwealth) places?
  • Don't know why they didn't mentioned that but the water you drink (except bottle water) contains chlorine. Chlorine is a chemmical that was even used as poison on WW I.

    To avoid chlorine on your drinking (and cooking) water, use a chlorine filter like this [ecowise.com]
    • As I have come to understand it, chlorine gas (Cl2) in and of itself, is no more posionous than oxygen. The reason chlorine gas is useful as a weapon is because when inhaled it reacts with water to form a lot of acid

      Cl2 + H2O -> HCl (hydrochloric acid) + ClOH (hypochlorite acid)

      since there isn't a lot of water in your lungs (it can only react with the water on the surface of your bronchial tubes), the concentration is high and therefore leads to the acid eating away your lungs from the inside out.

      (Al
  • by jebell (567579)
    Just you wait, as these tests become cheaper and easier, a whole new round of law suits will ensue.
  • It strikes me that perhaps the combination of chemicals to beware is that of the most common "harmful" chemicals people have absorbed, etc. with common prescription medicines. Both contain chemicals, which if in direct contact, might do a lot of harm, compared with what the prescription or absorbed chemical does in it's otherwise intended or dormant state.
  • by martin-boundary (547041) on Monday December 29, 2003 @10:00AM (#7827166)
    As somebody who claims to have followed the link, I feel decidedly nonplussed.

    Don't you hate it when people writing articles make up their own units? Whoever heard of measuring pollution in "humans"? This is pure bunk. Most useful units are standardized and published by ISO [www.iso.ch], and "humans" sure aren't listed anywhere I can see. And anyway, what's the symbol going to be, "hm"?

    Standardized units are essential when doing studies which claim repeatability. Anything less is simply not science. I shudder to think what useless arguments this will produce, when a swedish team checks their pollution readings in scandinavian humans, while an italian teams does the same in latin humans. At sufficiently high readings, the difference could be several percent! Then there are issues of hair colour and hair style, which could even change the results of the experiment years after the fact! And don't get me started on the problems every time bell bottoms get back into fashion.

    If you ask me, shoddy science begins with the wrong units. And humans are definitely the wrong unit to use in this case.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 29, 2003 @10:11AM (#7827224)
    While I am glad that there are people that get worried about this stuff (it's fun to watch and who knows, they might even be right about something) I can't think of one major food health scare that held up under scruntiny.

    Alar on apples. Bogus [acsh.org]

    Silicon Breast Implants Bogus [drnein.com]

    DDT Mostly Bogus [21stcentur...cetech.com]

    Somewhere along the way we lost our ability to actually use science and facts to evaluate things and have fallen back on a faith based consensus [crichton-official.com] pseudo-science.

    Remember, None of us are getting out of here alive. Life - A sexually transmitted terminal disease. Always fatal.

  • FYI (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Joe U (443617)

    "Everyone's exposed to substances and there's no evidence that the low levels people are exposed to are harming anybody," said Steven Milloy, author of "Junk Science Judo: Self Defense Against Health Scares and Scams." "It's a waste of time and money that only serves to scare people."

    Why do I get the feeling similar quotes were heard just before the Roman Empire fell?

    Most likely it was something like, 'The lead in our drinking cups don't have any harmful side effects that we can see.'

  • by Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) on Monday December 29, 2003 @10:16AM (#7827250) Homepage Journal
    "Everything is in everything else".

    The sensitivity of today's measurement techniques is stunning. But even decades ago, it was common knowledge among chemists that if you started looking at trace contaminants the results were like cleaning out your garage -- "what's THAT doing there?!".

    What's interesting is whether the odds and ends are in significant quantities. When you define "significant", remember that your body is a huge detoxification machine designed to survive consuming carrion, plants full of natural insecticides, and even unchlorinated water.
  • by dgh (149553)
    Blood and urine tests are often not reliable indicators of total body burden of a substance. Blood or urine levels can be low while significant (possibly toxic) amounts may be stored in various organs and visa versa.

    Also, due to health and genes, different people can tolerate vastly different amounts of a toxic substance before showing symptoms or being disadvantaged.

    Remember that the risks of cigarette smoking and factors contributing to heart disease have been researched for decades and are still not f
  • So what? (Score:3, Informative)

    by tgibbs (83782) on Monday December 29, 2003 @10:51AM (#7827436)
    Just from basic physics and chemistry, we know that if a chemical is anywhere around, it will be present in the environment and the human body at some concentration, so all this means is that modern analytical techniques have finally developed enough sensitivity to demonstrate what everybody with any sense knew already. The hard part is figuring out what the biological consequences of these tiny concentrations are--in most cases, the answer is likely to be somewhere between negligible and none.
  • So when President Bush was saying that Iraq had WMD what he meant was the uranium in Sadam's body ... :)

  • by penguin7of9 (697383) on Monday December 29, 2003 @11:15AM (#7827538)
    But it's OK, says the skeptical environmentalists: after all, we do not have definitive proof that all those substances are bad for you.

    Never mind that cancer is on the rise (could just be demographics, right?) and that dozens of species other than humans show hormonal abnormalities correlated with the presence of manufacured chemicals (could just be parasitic infections). Why be prudent and conservative if we can increase the GNP by 0.1%?

    In fact, it's probably impossible to prove at all that they are bad for you because no single substance may harm you--they may only harm you synergistically. And since you are exposed to all of them constantly, it is impossible to assign responsibility to individual chemicals. But without definitive proof that an individual chemical is harmful by itself, we wouldn't want to limit the freedom of corporations to pollute, would we?
    • Sure, let's let toddlers die in flammable pajamas, the 3rd world die of malaria, because you think cancer is on the rise.

      Except, the only reason cancer is on the rise is because (a) we can diagnose it better and (b) we've gotten so good at stopping the infectious diseases that used to kill everyone before they got old enough to come down with it.

      But, who needs proof or rational thought when there are scary things running loose!

      It's this kind of thinking that exterminated wild cats and wolves. After all -
      • Sure, let's let toddlers die in flammable pajamas, the 3rd world die of malaria, because you think cancer is on the rise.

        Frankly, compared to massive releases of untested chemicals, yes those are probably better choices. They are better choices because we have other means of avoiding those problems. Toddlers don't combust spontaneously and they don't smoke (as a rule), so it's easy to avoid them catching fire. And malaria is easy to avoid: stop settling in malaria-infested areas.

        Except, the only rea
        • "These chemicals prevent thousands of deaths each year, but we must ban them because they might be causing tens of deaths each year."

          And, no, "my kind" are the people who say that you must compare the benefits with the risks before making a decision. "My kind" are the kind of people who actually know chemistry, for example.

          Oh, and some cites that cancer rates are really increasing (as opposed to the cancer detection rate) might be nice.
  • Some usefull links (Score:5, Informative)

    by ThenAgain (627263) on Monday December 29, 2003 @11:43AM (#7827720)
    I used to be involved in this stuff. Here are a few useful links.

    The Environmental Working Group [ewg.org]
    These are some seriously dedicated guys who do environmental research and advocacy. They also maintain several interesting projects, including:

    • Body Burden [ewg.org] - Directly related to this article
    • The Chemical Industry Archives [chemicalin...chives.org] - I used to work with these documents. They're a massive collection of the chemical industry's own documents which describe how little they care about you.

    Bill Moyers - Trade Secrets [pbs.org]
    Bill Moyers did a great film about the problem.

    A Google Search For Philip Landrigan [google.com]
    Dr. Philip Landrigan has done extensive work on body burdens in children and has written a number of books.

  • Autism on the rise (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PetoskeyGuy (648788) on Monday December 29, 2003 @02:46PM (#7829121)
    My brother has autism. Once we found out about it, we started researching and there has been a huge increase in children born with autism in recent years. Wired magazine even published an article trying to suggest that autism was on the rise in California relating autism to being smart. All hubris asside, there is something happening and we need to find out what it is.

    One theory suggests that Thirmosal used in childhood inoculations may trigger autism in some children because it contains Mercury which is a known toxin being injected into most children. There is even a provision in the Homeland Security bill which prevents companies such as Eli Lilly from being sued by parents if thirmosal is found to be the cause of autism.

    Even if it is not mercury in innoculations, autism is on the rise and for those of us with kids or planning on having them, this is a scary thing. I watched my brother revert from a normal 3 year old to ... well himself now, but trapped by autism. Hard to explain, but scary as hell now that I'm having kids of my own.

    The study mentioned in the article only included 9 people. Obviously not statistically relavant, but the findings found enough chemicals in the body that more studies analysis must be done to determine the effects on the body, and especially the developing young ones.

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