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Proof of Burden

Scores of contaminants course through people's veins

Farm-field runoff, raw sewage, and smokestack emissions may contain a slew of poisonous chemicals. But how about a healthy person's blood? Two independent teams of scientists report that bodily fluids carry chemical cocktails that include toxic metals, artificial hormones, and ingredients of plastics, flame-retardants, pesticides, herbicides, and disinfectants. "The bottom line of both studies is that a whole raft of synthetic chemicals that simply did not exist 40 or 50 years ago is now in the bodies and in the bloodstreams of most Americans," says pediatrician Philip J. Landrigan of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.

The studies–one from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta and the other from the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy group in Washington, D.C.–focused on determining the prevalence in the body, or the so-called body burden, of more than 100 chemicals. Neither group specifically assessed the chemicals' health effects.

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