Read this eye-opening article about chemical exposure from everyday living. While the author has decided to continue his current lifestyle, this re-confirms my commitment to organic, natural products whenever possible. The bottom-line is this – in most cases we don’t know the long term effects of toxic chemicals in our body, or in our environment. I prefer to be conservative on this. No one knew DDT was deadly, until people started dying.

As far as flame retardents in furniture, cars, airplanes, carpets…. well, the author of this article, David Ewing Duncan, had 10 times the average level of Americans–see below:

“I hope you are not nervous, but this concentration is very high,” Bergman says with a light Swedish accent. My blood level of one particularly toxic PBDE, found primarily in U.S.-made products, is 10 times the average found in a small study of U.S. residents and more than 200 times the average in Sweden. The news about another PBDE variant—also toxic to animals—is nearly as bad. “

His guess about the source of exposure – perhaps the 200,000 miles in an airplane last year. But no one knows for sure. Further on in the article:

In 2001, researchers in Sweden fed young mice a PBDE mixture similar to one used in furniture and found that they did poorly on tests of learning, memory, and behavior. Last year, scientists at Berlin’s Charité University Medical School reported that pregnant female rats with PBDE levels no higher than mine gave birth to male pups with impaired reproductive health. Linda Birnbaum, an EPA expert on these flame retardants, says that researchers will have to identify many more people with high PBDE exposures, like the Oakland family and me, before they will be able to detect any human effects. Bergman says that in a pregnant woman my levels would be of concern. “Any level above a hundred parts per billion is a risk to newborns,” he guesses. No one knows for sure. “

Any margin of safety may be narrowing. In a review of several studies, Ronald Hites of Indiana University found an exponential rise in people and animals, with the levels doubling every three to five years. Now the CDC is putting a comprehensive study of PBDE levels in the U.S. on a fast track, with results due out late this year. Pirkle, who is running the study, says my seemingly extreme levels may no longer be out of the ordinary. “We’ll let you know,” he says.

So–here’s a challenge to the chemical industry, and it relates back to a previous post on “Green Chemistry”–let’s use our incredible human ingenuity and resourcefulness to replace these chemicals with non-toxic alternatives. That’s “innovation that matters” to me.