ChemicalBodyBurden Org explains what is a “body burden” as it applies to toxic chemicals. Here is their explanation (reprinted). Go to their web site to learn more.
“Toxic chemicals, both naturally occurring and man-made, often get into the human body. We may inhale them, swallow them in contaminated food or water, or in some cases, absorb them through skin. A woman who is pregnant may pass them to her developing fetus through the placenta. The term ” body burden ” refers to the total amount of these chemicals that are present in the human body at a given point in time. Sometimes it is also useful to consider the body burden of a specific, single chemical, like, for example, lead, mercury, or dioxin.
“Some chemicals or their breakdown products (metabolites) lodge in our bodies for only a short while before being excreted, but continuous exposure to such chemicals can create a “persistent” body burden. Arsenic, for example, is mostly excreted within 72 hours of exposure. Other chemicals, however, are not readily excreted and can remain for years in our blood, adipose (fat) tissue, semen, muscle, bone, brain tissue, or other organs. Chlorinated pesticides, such as DDT, can remain in the body for 50 years. Whether chemicals are quickly passing through or are stored in our bodies, body burden testing can reveal to us an individual’s unique chemical load and can highlight the kinds of chemicals we are exposed to as we live out each day of our lives. Of the approximately 80,000 chemicals that are used in the United States, we do not know how many can become a part of our chemical body burden, but we do know that several hundred of these chemicals have been measured in people’s bodies around the world.”
What are the health effects of this body burden?
Chemicals can have different effects in people or in wildlife, depending on the amount, timing, duration, and pattern of exposure as well as the properties of the specific chemical. Chemicals can have toxic effects through a variety of mechanisms.
For example, sometimes a chemical attacks and damages or kills cells or tissues in the body. Some chemicals attack the genetic material in the nucleus of a cell, causing damage directly to the DNA, which may create an inheritable defect that is passed on to the next generation. This can lead to gene mutations, which can set in motion a sequence of events leading to cancer, birth defects, developmental or reproductive disorders. Chemicals that cause cancer are calledcarcinogens. Chemicals that cause birth defects are calledteratogens. Chemicals that damage the normal development of the fetus, infant, or child, or damage our reproductive tissues are calleddevelopmental/reproductive toxicants. Some chemicals can cause damage through their ability to interfere with normal hormone function. These chemicals are called endocrine disrupters.
Through these various mechanisms, toxic chemicals can cause a long list of health problems. They include, for example, direct damage to the lungs, liver, kidney, bones, blood, brain and other nerves, and the reproductive systems. There are hundreds of adverse health effects that can arise from exposures to chemicals or metals. These potential effects include cancer; high blood pressure; asthma; deficits in attention, memory, learning, and IQ; Parkinson’s-like diseases; infertility; shortened lactation; endometriosis; genital malformation; peripheral nerve damage; and dysfunctional immune systems. For example, dioxin is a carcinogen and fetal exposures to dioxin interfere with normal development, including the immune system. Fetal exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) is related to behavioral and cognition problems. DDT exposure has been related to women’s inability to produce sufficient breast milk. The immune systems of children in some areas of the far north are unable to produce enough antibodies to make vaccinations effective. Since these children and their mothers carry large chemical body burdens, a chemical link to this problem is likely. Fetal exposure to mercury causes attention, memory, and learning problems later in life. Brain development is also impaired in fetuses and infants exposed to lead.
Chemical Trespass; Pesticides in Our Bodies and Corporate Accountability (Pesticide Action Network of North America, 2004) http://issuu.com/panna/docs/chemtres2004eng?e=1267960/5905738#search