There’s a new phrase in town — “body burden” — and no, it doesn’t refer to the weight you gained over the holidays, nor that husband who doesn’t help around the house.
Unfortunately, body burden is no laughing matter. It refers to the level of chemical contaminants that are in our bodies. Scary stuff like mercury, lead, PCBs, pesticides … And those of us teeming with chemical contaminants aren’t necessarily refugees from some environmental catastrophe, as in Love Canal or Three Mile Island. They’re people like me … and very likely you, too. Even more alarming, they include many of our kids. By the time a baby takes its first breath, it has more than 300 chemicals in its bloodstream. The womb(!) is a baby’s first environment, and it’s increasingly contaminated.
Even those of us who’ve cleaned up — and greened up — our acts, aren’t immune. With a certain trepidation, I recently took an online test to find out my own “body burden.” To get a definitive test would require much blood work and much money. But I managed to get a glimpse of my body burden by taking this online version: http://extras.insidebayarea.com/bodyburden/bodyburden.html#21)
My body burden score is 360/794, which means I’m at “medium” risk. While the test doesn’t account for my preference for non-toxic cleaning products, shampoos and furnishings, it’s nonetheless sobering to realize that none of us is safe from these insidious chemicals. Also disturbing are the questions themselves: so much of our daily routine (waterproof footwear! kids’ toys! plastic containers to store food!) introduces toxins into our lives and bodies.
These unwanted intruders are far from benign. They mess with our hormones (and as my husband is so fond of pointing out to me, my hormones do NOT need any more messing with). They damage our respiratory systems, damage our brains and nervous systems, and cause or aggravate cancer.
It’s easy to feel helpless against such a formidable foe. But while I may not be able to single-handedly detox the world, I can detox my part of the world as much as possible. I can avoid products that are made with chemicals of concern: PVC, flame retardants and lead, for starters. I can support companies that share my vision of a cleaner world. I can add my voice to powerful groups like the Environmental Working Group, Environmental Defense Fund and the Union of Concerned Scientists, who advocate for people just like us.
Now I just need to eliminate that other body burden (roughly five pounds of dark chocolate!) I picked up over the holidays …