It is not unknown that chemicals are literally everywhere these days—from our kitchen utensils to the food we eat to the cosmetics we use. The more frightening issue though is when these chemicals accumulate in our bodies. What happens to us? What are the effects of this accumulation to our health and overall well-being?

The Environmental Working Group recently released a report which is “the first comprehensive inventory of known or likely carcinogens that have been measured in people.” They analyzed biomonitoring data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) that provides a representational snapshot of the US population.

They found that up to 420 natural and man-made chemicals known or likely to be carcinogenic where detected in blood, urine, hair, and other human samples taken as part of the survey. Found in nearly every person participating in the survey where arsenic, lead, nitrate, a breakdown product of the insecticide dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT) and chloroform. Benzene was also found in more than half of the surveyed population.

The report stated that nine of the chemicals were estimated to be at toxicity levels that exceed the Environmental Protection Agency’s safety standards. However, the author of the study Curt DellaValle stressed that, “The mere presence of a carcinogen in the body is not necessarily a serious health threat.” The cause for concern, according to him, lies in our lack of understanding about how these chemicals will interact with each other as they accumulate in the body.

Overall, what we can get from the report is how exposure to these chemicals does indeed pose a risk to our health. And the number of carcinogens detected in the human body is alarming. It goes to show how much work we need to reduce and eliminate toxic chemicals from our daily lives. Along with supporting and fighting for stronger chemical laws, we should be aware of the sources of carcinogens present in our environment, food, and products, and from this limit our exposure to these chemicals as much as we could.

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