Ken Cook from Environmental Working Group presents Ten Americans: Part 1

Uploaded by EnvironmentalWG on 16.11.2009

We do a lot of different research projects at the Environmental Working Group on a wide
range of topics, but tonight I want to talk to you about one specific project involving
ten Americans, ten Americans who have really been instrumental in inspiring what we consider
to be one of the most important environmental campaigns in history.
One day we collected a sample of blood from each of these ten Americans and we sent it
to a laboratory to analyze it for 413 different toxic chemical pollutants, pesticides and
industrial chemicals alike. Of course scientists have been studying pollution in air, water
and land for decades but it is only recently that they turned to the study of pollution
in people and that is what this project was designed also to do. There are hundreds and
hundreds of toxic chemicals in the air in the United States, hundreds of millions of
pounds emitted each year. But we know for a fact that none of these ten Americans were
exposed to these chemicals by virtue of the air that they breathed even though we found
some of these very chemicals in these ten people. It could also have been the water
that they drank, and believe it or not some drinking water does start off looking like
this before it is treated. But we know for a fact that it was not the tap water. Of course
it could have been food that was the route of exposure, but we know for a fact that none
of these ten Americans were exposed to the chemicals we found in them as the result of
food that they bought at the grocery store, bought at a restaurant, and consumed. That
was not the source. What about personal care products? Our online survey has shown that
women use an average of about 12 personal care products a day and that exposes them
to more than 160 chemical ingredients some of them rather toxic, day after day after
day. Men the exposure is about half that, because they only use about half of the personal
care products that women use. But some good news, this is not a gloom and doom presentation
all together, almost all of the men were found to use both deodorant and toothpaste, so there
is kind of a silver lining there. These ten Americans were not farm workers,
they were not factory workers, and when the results came back from the laboratory we had
found 287 chemicals in just those ten people. An average of 200 chemicals in each one. When
you look at the chemicals by category, it is kind of astonishing. 28 different waste
by products, dioxins, furans, things that come out of incinerators, smoke stacks. 47
different consumer product ingredients, the flame-retardants in these lights and this
projector, Teflon chemicals, Scotchgaurd chemicals, pesticides. But for my money, most disturbing
of all, we found 212 industrial chemicals and pesticide breakdown products that had
been banned 30 years before we had took those blood samples and sent them to the lab in
2004. Who were these ten Americans? How were they
exposed? Well the truth of the matter is that we do not really know very much about these
ten people. About the only thing we know is that as the exposures took place, all of them
looked something like
this. This was the first time anyone had every bothered
since the beginning of the chemical revolution to examine umbilical cord blood to examine
how many toxic chemicals got through to the developing child. Here is another view. This
baby is receiving about 300 quarts of blood circulating to him from the mother every day.
The nutrients that are allowing the baby to grow, the oxygen that is allowing the baby
to breath. This baby, like all babies at this age, does not have a blood brain barrier.
That means that the tissues of the brain, the cells of the brain, are not protected
as they will be in later life just a few months from now really to protect him from the chemicals
that would pass into those tissues and those cells. So this baby arguably has been at his
most vulnerable for 9 months at this stage. And the other thing to know about this baby,
this is my baby. This is Callahan Cook, my son, who is born a year ago. Pediatricians
and scientists thought, hoped that babies were protected from toxic chemicals because
the chemicals were filtered out by the placenta. Our studies should disturbingly that that
is not the case.
Industrial pollution begins in the womb.
Obviously this is a heavy message, we are concerned about toxic chemicals to which babies
in the womb are exposed. But let me also tell you that just because a chemical is found
in someone does not mean that there is going to be environmental damage, biological damage.
It does not mean that at all, but what it does mean is that there is reason to be concerned.
What it does mean is that we ought to do all we can to minimize those exposures. It stands
to reason. And the reason we want to avoid them is the nature of the chemicals themselves.
134 of these chemicals had been shown to cause cancer in laboratory studies or in people.
151 associated with causing birth defects. 154 caused hormone disruption. Infertility
186 different chemicals. Immune system toxicants 130. Neurotoxins like lead, PCBs, mercury,
that we know can have profound effects on the developing child, profound effects on
their intelligence, profound effects on their motor coordination. If you are doing a little
math here you are already seeing that we have more health effects than chemicals. Why is
that? The answer is simple, many of these chemicals have multiple toxic effects a recent
review concluded that when you look at all of these chemicals in combination, which we
never do when we review their toxicity, we look at them one at a time, you have to come
to a disturbing conclusion. The combined evidence suggests that neurodevelopmental disorders
caused by industrial chemicals has created a silent pandemic in modern society.
So what does the chemical industry say? That there is no reason to worry. Why? Because
the chemicals are safe. Because the doses are so low. Parts per billion. So the question
becomes can a part per billion really cause harm? After all a part per billion, as the
industry likes to say, is equal to one pancake in a stack of pancakes 4000 miles high. This
is an actual picture that the industry took of that stack of pancakes after they stacked
them 4000 miles. They have more money than we do but we have the cool slide show. One
pancake in a stack 4000 miles high. What could possibly have any impact at such a low concentration?