More About Those Toxins in Your Body

by Liz Colville

The fact that pregnant women, not to mention people generally, are filled with chemicals is not exactly new, but it’s been seeping (pardon the word choice) into our consciousness more in the past few years because, rightly so, people are starting to freak the fuck out about it, and, helpfully, some of those people are scientists. Last year, Jerome Groopman, author of that book about the frustrating, arbitrary, stressful, and sometimes nice world of medicine, wrote an article about the issue in the New Yorker that left me and probably other readers unsatisfied, which was probably his intention: we have evidence that chemicals do damage to fetuses and grown people, but we have a long way to go in terms of understanding how, regulating chemicals, and just never using them for anything ever again. The Toxic Substances Control Act, for one thing, hasn’t been revised in more than 30 years. Maybe a new study on chemicals found in pregnant women’s bodies will help?

The study, conducted by UC San Francisco researchers using CDC data, found “detectable levels” of numerous chemicals in “almost all” of the 268 women studied. Those chemicals include:

certain pesticides, flame retardants, PFCs used in non-stick cookware, phthalates (in many fragrances and plastics), pollution from car exhaust, perchlorate (in rocket fuel) and PCBs, toxic industrial chemicals banned in 1979 that persist in the environment.

Banned in 1979! So let’s hope in 2035 we can look back at the rest of the items in the list and say, “Oh, no, they’re still in the environment, even though we banned them in 2012/2017/2022/2034. Remember rockets?” I don’t know about you, but every time I go to cook something I say, “Which pan shall I use tonight? The Alzheimer’s one [aluminum] or the cancer one [teflon-coated]?” Then I take the cast-iron pan in my arms and sing it a song, because I don’t get enough iron in my diet.

The study tested for 163 chemicals, and many more may be present than were tested for. A spokesperson for the Natural Resources Defense Council told USA Today that “some of these chemicals may act together to cause more damage than they would alone.” Truly excellent.

The American Chemistry Council, which is the official fan club of chemicals, and has thousands of company members including one called HarborChem and another called BWA Water Additives USA LLC, chimes in to say this is all overblown:

As part of daily life, our bodies naturally absorb organic and man-made chemicals from our environments, and analytical advances now allow researchers to measure exceedingly minute traces of such substances.

Shut up!

The study authors are not trying to freak women out, they say, but they also say the research “should be a ‘call to action’ to overhaul” the Toxic Substances Control Act. Yes. In the meantime, move to the country, wear a gas mask at all times, only cook with iron and stainless steel, ride bicycles everywhere, make a bonfire out of all the plastic you own (which will be difficult), and stay away from rockets, or else get a gas mask to fit over the original gas mask for when you go watch the rockets take off.