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Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) in partnership with American Nurses Association (ANA) and Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) have released the “Hazardous Chemicals In Health Care” report, detailing the first investigation ever of chemicals found in the bodies of health care professionals. The inquiry found that all of the 20 participants had toxic chemicals associated with health care in their bodies. Each participant had at least 24 individual chemicals present, four of which are on the recently released Environmental Protection Agency list of priority chemicals for regulation. These chemicals are all associated with chronic illness and physical disorders.
For the report, PSR recruited 20 doctors and nurses from 10 states (AK, WA, OR, CA, MN, MI, ME, MA, CT and NY) to test for the presence in their bodies of chemicals known to be persistent, bioaccumulative, or are suspected toxins that are ubiquitous in the environment from the use of consumer products. Through their participation in the project, doctors and nurses educated the public and policy leaders about what is actually in their bodies. Some of the chemicals for which the healthcare professionals were tested include:
- Bisphenol A (BPA) - Used in baby bottles, plastic water bottles, linings of metal food and drink containers, and other products. It is an endocrine disruptor associated with miscarriages, prostate cancer, altered brain development and behavior, and diabetes.
- Polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDEs) – Used as a flame retardant in products like furniture, computers, and mattresses. It is toxic at low levels and is persistent in the environment. PBDEs affect learning, memory, and behavior, as well as thyroid hormones.
- Perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) – Used in manufacturing of protective coatings for carpets and other non-stick coatings. It has the potential risk for developmental and other adverse health effects.
- Phthalates – Used as plasticizers and found in many items from cosmetics to wood finishes. Low dose exposures affect the development of reproductive organs, potentially causing adverse health effects in fetuses and preterm babies.
- Triclosan - Synthetic broad-spectrum antimicrobial agent which is used in hundreds of products such as toothpaste, antibacterial soaps, cosmetics, fabrics, deodorants, and plastics. Triclosan is listed as “could be” and “suspected to be” contaminated with dioxins. This chemical is very stable over long periods of time and has been shown to bioaccumulate in aquatic organisms and even in human breast milk.
- Mercury – Enters the environment most commonly as a byproduct of coal combustion. This heavy metal is a neurotoxin that attacks the central nervous system and can cause brain damage. It can also pass from mother to fetus, resulting in mental retardation and autism, abnormalities of fine motor skills, impaired visual-spatial perception, learning disabilities, attention deficit disorders, and hyperactivity. The EPA estimates that elevated mercury levels are found in almost 16 percent of American women of childbearing age – that’s almost one out of six – placing as many as 600,000 children each year at risk for brain defects due to mercury exposure.
- Lead – Primary exposure is from chipping paint and dust in older homes with lead paint. It can cause anemia, miscarriages, learning disabilities, and behavior problems. There is no known safe level of lead exposure.
To read the full report, click here.