As part of the research for TRADE SECRETS, Bill Moyers volunteered
to participate in a pilot study of pollutant loads in the human
body sponsored by the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
84 chemicals were detected in Moyers blood and urine samples.
Most of these substances could not have been present in the human
body sixty years ago, when Moyers was a child. According to the
study's lead doctor, Michael McCally, the compounds are products
of the chemical revolution - five decades of intensive (and continuing)
Because of the prohibitive costs of the highly specialized laboratory
tests, testing for chemical body burdens is out of the question
for most people unless they are participants in a study. In the
Mount Sinai work, the battery of tests for each individual cost
more than $6000.
Currently, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is
engaged in a similar but much larger project to develop
a National Exposure Report Card that will measure chemical residues
in thousands of people in a range of demographic groups, including
The 2000 Report Card measured 27 toxic substances that may cause
cancer, birth defects, respiratory, cardiac, and other diseases.
A future Report Card will increase the number of toxic substances
measured to 100.
National Exposure Report Card
The Mount Sinai study tested for five heavy metals, 22 organochlorine
pesticides, a suite of organophosphate pesticide metabolites, several
organic solvents, 17 dioxins and furans, 73 types of PCBs, and six
types of phthalates. In addition to the chemicals they were looking
for, analysts identified 78 semivolatile organic compounds in study
group blood samples. The semivolatile chemicals showed up during
an analysis by a machine called a mass spectrometer which can identify
certain chemicals by the peaks they register on a graph. For many
of these semivolatiles, publicly available health effects data are
scarce, and exact sources of exposure are unknown.