A May 2009 report by EWG documented pollution in 5 extraordinary women who for decades have fought against pollution, environmental racism and injustice in their communities.
From New Orleans, Green Bay, Corpus Christi and Oakland, these women have been deeply been engaged in environmental justice battles against local manufacturing plants, hazardous waste dumps, oil refineries and conventional agriculture.
We took a unique approach. Instead of testing for chemical pollutants emitted from heavy industries where the women live, we targeted more subtle threats: toxic chemicals in everyday consumer products that have escaped effective regulation under the antiquated Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The goal was to highlight chemical exposures we all share and to discuss the double jeopardy faced by people beset by blatant industrial pollution and invisible hazards at home.
Though the five women live thousands of miles apart, come from distinctive cultural traditions and confront different environmental hazards outside their homes, the mix of consumer product-generated chemicals found in their bodies was strikingly similar and roughly equivalent to the body burdens of other Americans surveyed by governmental and independent research organizations.
All 5 were contaminated with flame retardants, Teflon chemicals, synthetic fragrances, the plastics ingredient bisphenol A (BPA) and the rocket fuel component perchlorate.
Each had a high body burden of at least one controversial chemical whose lack of regulation and widespread presence in American life is fueling debate over reform of the nation’s toxic chemical policies.
Overall the women tested positive for 48 of 75 chemicals for which EWG-commissioned laboratories searched, with a range from 26 to 45 per person.
In addition, several of these women face serious pollution threats in their communities, which put them at elevated risk.
Federal policies offer only the slimmest of safeguards for people in communities with heavy pollution loads, forcing them to carry the extra burden of industrial pollution on top of the hundreds of chemicals to which we are all exposed in daily life.