Smart discussion about toxics policy reform

Pollution in 5 Extraordinary Women

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.


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18 Responses to “Pollution in 5 Extraordinary Women”

  1. DAWN says:

    I am not surprised that the chemicals are held within our bodies from what we eat and drink to what we breathe in as well. With so many autoimmune deficiencies, cancers, growths and tumors and all the disease there are reasons. The million and billionaires do not care what happens as long as nobodies pocket is affected. Its all about money, and it stems from out government control. We the people have more power we are just to afraid to unite. Like in other countries who have Socialized medicine….poor countries make it work, but America cant? Come on! WE the PEOPLE HAVE ALOT MORE POWER! Canada, Cuba, China all those countries whats banned and not. Why waste money to see how much of a chemical is “safe”? Ban it all together! Children are sick, some die cause of cancers, tumors? How is that? Its all disgusting and heart breaking! We have to do something and start with the government! There shouldnt be poisons in our bodies period! And that is a major problem, we have to eat and drink that should be safe, people have to be aware as well. Not be lazy and use chlorine, things like that to go into our waters…it hurting our people, our wild life, our waters and food…this is outrageous!

  2. Karen says:

    I also have high amounts of heavy metals in my body and have been going through chelation treatment for four years now.
    After puffing up rapidly in a very short amount of time, I learned that New Bedford Harbor, the largest Superfund site in New England, started full scale dredging for PCBs just a few months before I presented with symptoms. I live less than a mile away from this harbor and maybe a few miles away from the actual dredging location. The harbor is also known to have high amounts of heavy metals due to long term dumping from area industry for decades. The metals in my body are mercury, lead, cadmium, tungsten, thallium and platinum. No one at the EPA seems to know where I am getting the platinum from since there is not enough study on it. My levels of platinum exceed off the lab chart.
    This contamination has put me on a quest to advocate for a clean, safe environment, thus, becoming an environmental activist in my community. In the meantime, I am still contending with the treatment and symptoms along with it.

  3. Tina Steele says:

    Many of us try to live healthier lives; by eating as organically as we can, using less chemical beauty and cleaning products, drinking filtered water, but we are literally beseiged by environmental toxins no matter what we try to do. There must be more federal control of industry, our food, and our water…for our childrens’ sake, and our own.

  4. Laurie says:

    Karen – I and very likely others would like to know what your symptoms are. I became very ill in my last month of pregnancy due to a biological contamination of the water near us. I was quarantined, became extremely gaundiced, whites of my eyes turned grey, my hair began to fall out, could eat nothing by mouth and thought I would die while in intensive care. (I had been healthy prior to all of this. The baby stopped moving -so med staff thought he may be dying- and told me so. I slowly got better, but when I went into labor two weeks later (the baby still wasn’t moving much- so I was very worried) I had very little strength for the delivering him. Luckily he was healthy, although jaundiced too in 24 hrs. He remained healthy too. Through all of this there was a massive cover-up. Mine and my husband’s ordeal was minimized and denied explanation. The pipes were changed and purged and a new well was dug – mysteriously and the health unit kept testing the water and advised me to boil my drinking water for a time. It took 6 months to feel well again.

  5. lara says:

    Thank you to EWG and similar sites that inform and edjucate us of all the toxic items that are out there for us to breathe or drink or eat! what astonishes me is the fact that the government is not implementing laws against major companies to reveal all of the materials included in their products. People should know exactly what is in the products that they are buying so that they can avoid them completely!

  6. It's me! says:

    What tests can one request to detect such pollutants?

  7. Vivian says:

    I recently became aware that Alkyldimethyl benzeclonium chloride is being sprayed on surfaces before meat is cut or processed. It is lethal if ingested and was removed from birthing rooms because of a link to autism around 20 years ago. It is diluted by the employees and left as a residue to “disinfect”. Even if you buy organic meat, it still might cross a contaminated meat counter. It is why meat is now mushy and watery. To me it tastes “spicy” and burns my mouth. I develop neurological symptoms, liver and digestive problems when I am exposed to it.

  8. Bob. Boyde says:

    I first of all have lived in areas where chemical plants belched smoke laden toxins for years!! I am 76 yrs. young,and now I am with a company who has a toxin free cosmetics called Glimpse from xango ie. my website above>

  9. Suzana says:

    I sent out the newsletter to a couple of mothers with young children and babies. I thought that they would want to know about the hazardous materials. You know I got one response out of 20 or so emails I sent out. The reason why these companies are getting away with MURDER is because people just don’t care, or they are to stupid to realize the implications. I am just at a lose in the reason? How could a mother not want to protect her baby from seen or unseen dangers? People need educated on toxins and effects on the human body. Everyone thinks oh it wont happen to me or my family. To many have their heads in the ground thinking it will not affect them.

    • Elaine Shannon says:

      Dear Suzana, Well, a lot of people are reading about this issue, so keep at it, and keep reading. This isn’t one of those hopeless causes. Can’t shop our way out of it, as we often say, but until toxics reforms pass, we all have to read labels. Best, Elaine Shannon

  10. bel says:

    It’s tough these days for sure. It’s fact, indeed, that manufacturing companies, huge factory farms, and the like are killing off inhabitants of earth. I would like to see future generations prosper by trying to reverse the devastation that’s been already caused. I try to instill “GREEN” in my family and really pay attention to what I purchase. Let’s face it, without the consumer, there would be no production. There are just some things we don’t need:)

  11. MARISOL OLIVA says:

    Hello to everyone,
    I agree with all of you, companies don´t care what they put on their products as long as we consume them and of course making them even richer. I also think it´s up to them to help out by cleaning up the environment, by recycling their own products; being plastic, glass, baterries, aluminum cans, etc. I URGE ALL THE BIG COMPANIES THAT MAKE A PROFIT FROM US THE PEOPLE TO DO DO DO DO DO DO DO SOMETHING BACK FOR US!!! It can be by doing better and safer products AND by doing something to help clean out the earth, OUR EARTH, THEIR EARTH AS WELL.
    Also i am getting tired that everything is bad for you, can SOMEONE please let me know what tests can we do to know what chemicals we have in our bodies or how can we get rid of the toxins out of our bodies?? or is it too late?? THANKS TO YOU ALL

  12. alice says:

    WOW just found your site…my sister had breast cancer and died 15 years ago due to its complications. She was heavily exposed at the chemical companies she worked for – produced pesticides. The Good ol’ boy system frowned on using protective equipment so to fit in she didn’t either. I sure miss her and know that the exposure killed her. Thanks for putting this important message out there!

    • Elaine Shannon says:

      Dear Alice, I am very sorry to hear about your sister. I’ve had many friends, from all walks of life, who have developed breast cancer. Scientists are trying to determine what interplay of predisposition and environmental factors may trigger the onset of this heartbreaking disease. We just don’t have the answers. But we do know that we should all try to reduce our exposures and our family’s chemical exposures as much as possible. I hope everybody who comes in contact with industrial chemicals or pesticides on the job is using good safety equipment. But, as our study showed, women who took precautions to avoid pollution from heavy industry were still blind-sided by chemicals in common consumer products. Elaine Shannon

  13. abdah khalifa says:

    the past seven years our family’s life has been turned upside down because our daughter developed chemical sensitivity. For the first three years we didn’t know what we were dealing with. At one point she could tolerate absolutely nothing and would spend her nights perched on a stool in just an underwear as she could not tolerate any of her clothes. She has been detoxing for two years and is still quite sick but now we have some hope that eventually she will recover. Pesticides, chemical fragrances, grooming products are some of the worse substances for her.

  14. Laurie says:

    I sympathize greatly with Abdah’s daughter. I am 61 and have suffered with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity for nearly 25 years. Now I am mostly housebound. Yet I must live at the mercy of people who wear multipe chemically formulated scents, use scented fabric softeners which vent into the air for everyone to choke on, and smokers who insist in smoking outside my windows and dropping burning cigarette butts everywhere they go (the very short list). I have been most encourged to see a slow awakening in our government leaders thanks to EWG and other persistant groups. Now, if we could just get the AMA to wake up, as well, those of us who have been denied any access to care might be vindicated. Maybe there is still hope for our grandchildren.

  15. Debbie says:

    I am reading the book Slow Death by Rubber Duck: How the Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Life Affects Our Health by Rick Smith, Bruce Lourie, and Sarah Dopp and am amazed to find out what is not regulated and that we have so much pollution around us in our every day lives. It is really worrisome. We must ensure these chemical pollutants are removed from consumer goods and from use in our societies. I use natural products at home and have for years. I don’t use commercial soaps or detergents or anything scented, I eat mostly organic foods, I am very careful but so many people have no awareness of any of these dangers at all. Even BPA, after all the news last year, I sometimes see people with plastic water bottles or reusing the same plastic water bottle over and over and I mention to them that they shouldn’t do that because of BPA and other plastics and they had no idea. They all say, well if it were bad for us the government wouldn’t let the companies use it or make it. I think we all thought the governments were protecting us from these bad chemicals and stuff like Aspartame and MSG but they are not. We need to get informed and do something about it ourselves. We are now starting to see the effects in humans with increased cancers, birth defects, etc. It is time to do something about this now.

    • Elaine Shannon says:

      Thanks, Debbie. Tell all those folks who think the government is protecting them to take a look at their retirement savings and home values.