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Understanding Body Burdens

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Author: Inspired Protagonist

Blood VialsThere is a sharp pinch and then not much else except a slight, unsettling sensation of something just under my skin. I watch as vial after vial fills quickly. There are fourteen altogether. Fourteen vials that hold my secrets and tell my story. Fourteen vials whose contents I have long wondered about. Fourteen vials that will reveal just how polluted I have become.

I've spent a good deal of my life talking about what's likely to be in the blood that's in these vials. It's the same thing that studies say is carried in the blood of virtually every man, woman, and child in the country: a cargo of synthetic chemicals that disrupt the human body's hormonal system, trigger carcinogenic mutations, depress the immune system, and interfere with reproduction and development.

We have these substances hiding inside us because we inhabit a world that is awash in chemicals. No one knows exactly how many are out there, but current estimates suggest that some 80,000 different compounds are produced around the world each year. Some of these chemicals are highly specialized materials made in tiny amounts. Others are produced by the tanker-load every day. Some are sprayed on our fields and in our forests. Others end up in the consumer products we use every day in our homes.

What most of these materials have in common is that they are largely unregulated. The companies that sell them are allowed to do so with relatively few restrictions. The packaging they provide is often riddled with informational holes -- deceptive at best, fraudulent at worst. And those who use these chemicals are given little in the way of meaningful safety instructions if they're given any at all.

What happens next has been happening for decades, and it's no surprise: The chemicals get loose and start going where they shouldn't. Molecule by molecule, like an invisible army, they march relentlessly into our air and our water. They enter our soil and our food. They get inside our children and ourselves.

This is called our body burden -- the slow, steady accumulation in our blood and in our tissues of the chemicals we unknowingly absorb every day.

Most of these synthetic materials have been created during the last century, and nature doesn't know what to do with them. No microbes have evolved to render them harmless, and the forces of sun and water are unable to break their powerful molecular bonds.

Once they're off the leash, these chemicals are able to persist in the environment for many years. They wander far and wide from their original source and work their way into every environmental nook and cranny. Because they are fat-soluble, they tend to naturally dissolve into animal fatty tissues. This means that when they get inside us, they don’t simply pass through and get excreted by our digestive systems. Instead, they tend to migrate to parts of the body where their molecular shape makes it easy for them to take up residence. Once there, the ability of our fatty cells to absorb them changes into an ability to retain them. That's how these chemicals are able to travel up the food chain and build up inside our bodies. That's why those we ingest today are added to those we ingested yesterday and tomorrow's encounters will make us more polluted still.

If these chemicals were harmless, I wouldn't care about my body burden or even necessarily about the tens of thousands of chemicals drifting unseen through our days. But they're far from safe. They're making us sick in some of the worst ways possible and turning our world into a giant experiment in which you and I are the unsuspecting guinea pigs.

I wanted to understand my own body burden. What chemicals were coursing through my bloodstream? Where did they come from, and what could I do about it?

So in September 2008 I watched as the nurse drew blood from my arm. The samples were sent to four separate labs in the U.S., Canada, and Europe, which tested them for 74 different chemical pollutants. A few weeks ago, I finally got the results back, and for someone like me who has gone the extra mile to live as healthy as possible, it was a real eye-opener.

Over the course of the next month or so, I'll share some of the secrets my body has been hiding and explain what it means for me, for you, and for our kids. In doing this, however, I don't want to look back as much as I want us to I look forward. The past is not as important as the present, and tomorrow matters more than today. So the conversation we need to have is not one of regret or recrimination. It should be about using every means possible to make sure that our kids never have to look at a lab report anything like the one sitting on my desk. If we can use what we know about our bodies' secrets to get us to that place, then perhaps our burdens will have been a weight worth carrying.





Measuring Body Burdens

Unfortunately, understanding your body burden is something few people are currently able to do. There is no standard test you can request. Instead, a body burden test is a complicated process that you must design and initiate yourself with the help of your doctor. It will involve multiple laboratories, a specified list of chemicals to be looked for, and a blood withdrawal whose sheer volume is not for the faint-hearted. It can also cost in excess of $10,000, a price tag that puts it out of reach for most of us.

My own test was done on behalf of all my friends, readers, and fellow environmentalists. It’s a representative sample, a snapshot of a relatively typical body that’s lived a fairly common lifestyle and could just as easily be yours or that of someone you love. While the details may vary, experts say that the overall picture my body burden paints is likely to be very similar to any test results that you yourself would receive.

If you are interested in your own test, however, you have two options: You can look for and participate in a government sponsored study of body burdens, which take place from time to time. Or talk with your doctor about putting one together.

For more information about Body Burdens, visit the Environmental Working Group or Coming Clean.

Read: My Body Burden, Part 2: BPA

photo: Neeta Lind

6
Comments

ashley80 picture
ashley80
08/26/09
If you are interested in learning more about body burden and a safe and effective way to rid our bodies of toxins/heavy metals-please take a moment to watch the short documentary below- I know you will find it extremely eye-opening. <a href="http://www.sharethecause.com/startnow" target="_blank">www.sharethecause.com/startnow</a> Below is a website which will provide you with additional information about how important it is to get the toxins out of our bodies and how we can begin to go about doing so! <a href="http://www.enjoygreathealthtoday.com/index.html" target="_blank">www.enjoygreathealthtoday.com/index.html</a>
cnelsondooley picture
cnelsondooley
07/15/09
It is so important to be aware of chemical body burdens in health and disease. Luckily, body burden testing doesn’t cost anywhere near $10,000 anymore. Your doctor can order tests that measure your heavy metal levels in urine, blood, or hair. There are other tests that measure levels of polychlorinated bi-phenyls (PCBs), volatile organic solvents, or chlorinated pesticides in blood. Assessing your body burden for the chemicals that are known to cause illness is more affordable than you might expect. Check out <a href="http://www.metametrixinstitute.org/post/2009/07/14/Environmental-Toxicity-and-the-Effect-on-Health.aspx" target="_blank">this presentation</a> by Dr. Walter Crinnion, ND that explains what we are up against when it comes to environmental toxins. He is Chair of the Department of Environmental Medicine at Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, Arizona. He gives a fascinating, compelling presentation (and the audio clears up after the first 1.5 minutes): Cass Nelson-Dooley, M.S. Clinical Consultant Metametrix Clinical Laboratory
NES 121 picture
NES 121
07/14/09
Would it be more accurate to use the term synthetic chemicals rather than chemicals? My impression is that everything in nature is a chemical.
MarkSchauss picture
MarkSchauss
07/09/09
An alternative to the blood test is to do a simple first morning urine test through US Biotek up in Seattle, Washington. While not nearly as comprehensive as the test here, it does look at excretion patterns of xylene, toluene, benzene, styrene, tri-methylbenzene, phthalates and parabens. Since we all seem to have these chemicals in us, it would behoove us to find out if we are effectively excreting them which this test does.
BETH HELM picture
BETH HELM
07/08/09
THIS HAS BEEN COMMON KNOWLEDGE IN THE INDUSTRY FOR YEARS... DR. WILLIAM REA EHC-DALLAS HEART SPECIALIST FOLLOWED BY AN ALPHBETE SOUP OF LETTERS IN HIS TITLE . ROUGHLY 40 YEARS GO STOP GIVING CHEMICALS(DRUGS) FOR CHEMICALS- HE RAN PARKLIN HOSPITAL INDALLAS.HE IS CREDITED W/ PROVING GULF WAR SYNDROME WAS OUR OWN DOING..FROM TOXIC INNOCULATIONS TO PESTICIDED COATED UNIFORMS NOT TO MENTION RADIOACTIVE AMMUNITION..I HAD THE PLEASURE OF MEETING HIM THE HARD WAY...MY HUSBAND BROUGHT ME TO HIS CLINIC FOR DETOX OF CHEMICAL EXPOSURE AT WORK...THANK GOD FOR DR. REA.....I WORKED FOR AN AIRLINE... CHEMICALLY INJURED MOM -- THAT THE CHEMICAL INDUSTRY DOESNT CARE ABOUT...THERE ARE MANY OF US... FROM CHILDREN WHO HAD THE AUDACITY TO PLAY ON FERTILIZED LAWNS AND EAT FASTFOODS , TO FIRE FIGHTERS SPRAYING(NON-TOXIC???) FIRE RETARDENT..TO NURSES AND DOCTORS OVERWHELMED BODY BURDEN FROM BATTLE THE FRONT LINES AT THE HOSPITALS..
szyharris picture
szyharris
06/30/09
I am so relieved to hear others talking the same language that we have been using in our natural healing center for the past several years... we use a unique procedure called Nutrition Response Testing in our practice to detect stressors present in the body that aggrevate the nervous system and block it from regulating properly (chemical toxicity, metal toxicity, immune imbalances, food sensitivities). We then go on, using applied kinesiology muscle testing to determine which protocols (herbal, whole food supplements, homeopathic remedies) will work for each individual to handle the toxins, release them and through eating whole foods, heal and regain the body's ability to balance itself. Sorry about the verbosity!! We have been getting amazing results for people in clearing common health problems that are a result of the body burdens you are discussing. (bowel imbalances - fibromyalgia - chronic fatigue - skin problems that are non responsive to traditional treatments - chronic immune imbalances, etc). Thank you for sharing your information and making it easier for us to continue our work. The more common place these issues become, the more people will look outside the box to address and take control of their health... and hopefully then have more energy, concern and creative ideas to contribute to improving community, state, country...etc. Dr. Suzy Harris Cedar Wood Chiropractic and Natural Healing Center <a href="http://www.cedarwood-chiropractic.com" target="_blank">www.cedarwood-chiropractic.com</a>