More US chemical exposures?

I was a little bit tied up with deadlines when this report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) came out two weeks ago but this is still interesting enough to warrant a post before the year ends.

CDC said its recently released Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environment Chemicals was the most extensive assessment to date yet covering for the first time 75 new chemicals bringing to a total of 212 chemicals in its database.

Some of the chemicals added include acrylamide and glycidamide adducts; arsenic species and metabolites; environmental phenols including bisphenol A and triclosan; perchlorate; perfluorinated chemicals; polybrominated diphenyl ethers; volatile organic compounds, etc…

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.

CDC said 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.

Here are some of the report’s findings:

  • The percentage of blood lead levels in children has declined since the late1970s.

  • Total blood mercury levels increase with age for allgroups and begin to decline after the fifth decade of life. Compared toolder women of childbearing age, younger women have higher birth ratesand lower mercury levels.
  • Acrylamide — formed whenfoods containing carbohydrates are cooked at high temperatures — wasdetected for the first time and is common in the U.S. population.
  • Allparticipants have detectable perchlorate in their urine. Perchlorate isboth naturally occurring and manmade and is used to manufacturefireworks, explosives, flares, and rocket propellant. Large medicaldoses of perchlorate affect thyroid function.
  • A highpercentage of the participants showed detectable levels of the gasolineadditive methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE). Exposure to this chemical canoccur through the air or from contaminated water sources.

  • 5% of the U.S. population aged 20 years and older hasurinary cadmium levels at or near these levels. Cigarette smoking isthe most likely source.

  • BPA was found in more than 90% of the participants’ urine.
  • Most participants had measurable levels of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)
  • One type of the fire retardant polybrominated diphenyl ether, BDE-47, was found in the serum of nearly all of the participants.

Still,CDC said that the chemical levels detected in a person’s blood or urinedoes not necessarily mean that the chemical will cause effects ordisease.


“Advances in analyticalchemistry enable us to measure low levels of environmental chemicals inpeople, but separate studies of varying levels of exposure determinewhether specific levels cause health effects.” -CDC

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) even noted that the CDC report reaffirms that levels of man-made and natural compounds detected in Americans remain low.


“Other factors such as dose,use, exposure and hazard information must all be assessed and analyzedto make any health effect determination,” the ACC said in a statement.

Low-levels they may be but the CDC report still caused an alarm from various health and environmental watchdogs. Senator Frank Lautenberg(D-NJ), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public WorksSubcommittee on Superfund, Toxics and Environmental Health announcedthe need for major overhaul of the current chemical safety standardsTSCA (Toxic Substances Control Act), as he highlighted the recent CDCreport.


“This study affirms thatAmericans are exposed to a wide range of industrial chemicals -including some that are known to cause cancer – and provides furtherevidence that America’s broken chemical regulations must be fixed,”stated Lautenberg.

Lautenberg plans to introducelegislation to reform TSCA early next year that would require that EPAdetermine whether chemicals meet new safety standards based onscientific risk assessment and that chemical companies provide enoughdata to make that determination.

Lautenberg also wants EPA to prioritize taking action on chemicals that present the greatest health risk.





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