Posted on Thu, Sep. 02, 2004
Many American foods contain toxic chemicals
Nearly every grocery item scientists studied was tainted with toxic PBDEs -- chemical flame retardants -- new research showed.
By SETH BORENSTEIN
WASHINGTON - A wide variety of food in American supermarkets is contaminated with tiny doses of toxic man-made chemical flame retardants, according to
a new study of everyday groceries released Wednesday.
Samples of grocery stores' fish, pork, duck, turkey, cheese, butter, milk, chicken, ice cream and eggs were tainted with polybrominated diphenyl
ethers, known as PBDEs, according to a peer-reviewed article in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.
Because this is a relatively new concern, no one has studied yet whether PBDEs are harmful to humans and at what levels, the Environmental Protection
Agency's top toxicologist said. However, in animal tests they have harmed the nervous system, altered hormonal function and changed the development
of reproductive organs. The government has ruled that one PBDE in large doses is a possible human carcinogen.
The finding indicates that the chemicals -- used in carpeting, electronics and furniture -- are getting into people through food and remain in the
body for several years.
Industry officials said the amounts were too small to worry about.
In the study, scientists found the chemicals in 31 of 32 common and name-brand groceries in three Dallas stores, which they said should be typical of
most American supermarkets. Only nonfat milk came up clean. Scientists said animal fat was a big factor.
''It's the first documentation that PBDEs are widespread in food that the American population would eat and that the concentrations in food are
high enough for a chemical like this that it is going to persist in our bodies,'' study coauthor Linda Birnbaum said. She is the EPA's director of
experimental toxicology and the president of the Society of Toxicology, a professional organization of scientists.
The amounts of PBDEs in U.S. groceries were nine to 20 times higher than those in foods in grocery stores in Spain and Japan, where not as many PBDEs
are used, the study reported. This matched earlier studies of elevated PBDE levels in human breast milk that found American amounts 10 to 100 times
higher than elsewhere, said Arnold Schecter, a University of Texas professor who co-wrote the most recent study.
Birnbaum said, ''The fattier the foods, the more PBDEs you'll get.'' Because health officials don't know what levels of PBDEs are safe, Birnbaum
recommends that people follow ''heart-healthy'' diets, which cut down on fats that store toxins.
The amounts of PBDEs ranged from one part per trillion for margarine to 3,078 parts per trillion for salmon.
Those levels are ''millions of times below acceptable limits,'' said Peter O'Toole, the U.S. director of the Bromine Science and Environment
Forum, which represents the three chemical companies that produce these types of flame retardants. A person would have to eat 80 tons of cheese a day
to ingest enough of one certain type of PBDE to be harmful, he said, basing his analysis on a National Academy of Sciences study in 2000.
Why does the industry always comes first?
Don't we test the safety on the chemicals before allowing companies to disperse it all over?
[edit on 4-9-2004 by psilocin]