New CDC Report Charts Chemical Exposure In U.S. Population

On January 31st, Environmental Defense said that figures from the newly released National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals shed light on the widespread exposure of children and adults in the U.S. to various environmental chemicals. A guide to the report can be found on the Environmental Defense Scorecard website (

"Today's report provides proof that children are more exposed to a wide variety of chemicals, from pesticides and passive tobacco smoke to phthalates. It also demonstrates that chemical exposure is not equal among ethnic groups. This kind of information gives us the ability to sort out who is exposed in the highest amounts to the most toxic chemicals and to take action to prevent those exposures," said John Balbus, M.D./MPH, director of the environmental health program at Environmental Defense

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report measures chemicals directly in human blood and urine. Today's report, the second to be released, describes the amounts of 116 chemicals and metals in the bodies of selected Americans and helps characterize real life exposure in the general population.

"This country spends $1.4 trillion every year on health costs. We don't know exactly what proportion of those costs are due to environmental exposures, but we do know that health costs related to these exposures are unnecessary and can be prevented. This report is an important part of the small investment made to prevent illness," Dr. Balbus said.

The CDC's first national report, released last year, measured 27 metals and chemicals. Data from the first report are being combined with new data to give a better idea of the range of amounts of chemicals in people's bodies and to give a better idea of how different ages, genders and ethnic groups differ in exposure.

"Two years ago the National Toxicology Program expressed serious concern that male children's exposure to di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate could harm their reproductive tracts. Now school-age children have about one and one-half times as much of this in their bodies as adults. Safer substitutes for this chemical, particularly in children's products should be used, as further work to determine the exposure in younger children and its potential to cause harm is studied," Dr. Balbus said. "This kind of information should also make the general public demand better information on the chemicals found in children's and other consumer products

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