No evidence industrial chemicals are safe, but they're in our blood

Blood tests have revealed that ministers from thirteen European Union countries are contaminated with dozens of industrial chemicals.

Tests conducted by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) on ministers including the UK's Alun Michael, Environment Minister for France, Serge Lepeltier and Spanish Environment Minister, Cristina Narbona, showed a total of 55 industrial chemicals in their blood.

Residues found were from substances including those used in fire resistant sofas, non-stick pans, grease proof pizza boxes, fragrances and pesticides. Some of the chemicals in question were banned decades ago, but many are still in use today.

"The ministers are all contaminated with industrial chemicals whose effects are largely unknown," Karl Wagner, director of the WWF's detox campaign. "It is hard to believe that legislators have been willing to allow this uncontrolled experiment to continue for so many years."

Of the 103 chemicals tested for in the ministers' blood, over 53% were found to be present. With an average of 37 chemicals present in any one blood sample, the highest was 43 and the lowest 33.

A total of 25 of the same chemicals were found in every single blood sample, which included one flame retardant, two pesticides and 22 PCBs. These chemicals have also been traced in the bodies of polar bears, dolphins and other species that live in remote environments.

Although there is still not sufficient safety information available on 86% of the industrial chemicals currently used in everyday life, many of them have been linked with allergies, cancers, reproductive problems, birth defects and hormone imbalances in both animals and humans (see related story).

"The chemical industry argues that it cannot afford to find out if its products are dangerous," Mr Wagner said. "WWF says that for the sake of all life on our planet, including our own, we cannot afford not to find out."

By Jane Kettle



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