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The Body Burden....Do you know what's in YOUR temple?

Updated on October 8, 2008

You can't escape it.....


Not a single person on earth is protected or exempt from carrying a toxic build up of chemicals in their bodies. Even if you live somewhere remote and fresh-aired you are not immune to the suffusion of deadly chemicals that have become accepted on faith, and through advertising, as being perfectly safe to use. They are in the air, the rain, the soil, the lakes, rivers, and oceans. We absorb them through breathing, osmosis, and consumption of foods. We even willingly expose ourselves to un-tested or under-tested toxins...on a daily personal hygiene and cosmetic products, yard care products, and of course both over the counter and prescription medications.

They even have a name for it: The Body Burden. It's estimated that at least 700 chemicals have infiltrated their way into our bodies, and are often not expelled but stored in fat and tissue. No matter how careful you are about how you live, eat and drink, you cannot escape the Body Burden.

No one knows the long term effect of ingesting or absorbing these chemicals.

Several years ago journalist Bill Moyers (one of my Heroes) produced a PBS story on The Body Burden for his "Bill Moyers Now" series. As part of the research he was tested for 150 common chemical contaminates. He tested positive for 84 of them! This is a man who works in a seemingly benign environment. Imagine what some industrial and agricultural laborers and health care workers must be exposed to! Imagine what you might be carrying, how often and how long are you exposed.

It is great to walk down the aisles of supermarkets these days and see that I am not the only one reading labels prior to tossing an item in my cart. We've learned to look out for things like msg, preservatives, funky bad fats, and high fructose corn syrup. But unless we are buying certified organic foods we really do not have a way of protecting ourselves from what happens to our food, (and the ingredients used) as it is being grown and processed. Even certified organic foods run the risk of having been contaminated by toxins in the air, and water (rain). And we must remember that so many of our foods that look perfect as they gleam brightly in the produce and butcher departments, are imported from other countries that have far fewer restrictions on the types of herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers used in production.

My own personal poisoning

It's all too easy for contamination to happen. Every year we grow an organic garden on our large lot. We use sustainable practices....lay down the remnants of the crop in the autumn; allow it to compost on the ground and hand dig it in to the soil prior to spring and summer planting. We compost every little thing from our home and garden; a compost pile cooks all year round in Oregon. We work this into the soils we plant in, test the ph and amend with natural matter as needed. Hardly ever is. We live across a country highway from a 10 acre Christmas tree field. We're not quite rural, homes are generally on 1/3 to 5 acre parcels and there are some country businesses nearby.

Several June's ago, just as our garden was getting a leg up on growth, I was working in my home office at the back of the house. My windows were open to a beautiful day. Suddenly I got a horrible taste in my mouth and a nearly instant headache. I heard my husband yelling at me to grab the phone, as he went running across the street with his hand over his mouth and nose to get the phone number off the temporary posted signs, saying that Sester Farms was spraying for pine beetles. Across the street was a small tanker truck creeping up the field of waist high trees, with unprotected workers (I assume they were undocumented) hand spraying each tree. I could taste it before I could smell it, and it was lofting in the breeze and drifting right over us...and our lovingly attended to organic yard.

The owner showed up in country club clothes an hour and a half later. We complained bitterly to him and threatened to report him to the state Dpt. Of Environmental quality and the federal Environmental Protection Agency. He was very cavalier, tossed some dust in the air and it dropped to earth (as though dirt could equate with aerated mist of sprayed poison. He said that the state of Oregon requires that he spray for Pine beetles twice a year. He told us that we would not like would happen in that field if he ever stopped growing trees. I told him I am a Realtor and know full well what the new zoning would be....and that I felt that a housing subdivision or green certified light industrial project would pose less danger to us than being dosed with insecticides twice a year. I asked him if he had no concern for his employees and got no answer as he turned on his heel and left in his SUV. But they did stop spraying that day.

I have concluded that for now, there is little we can do to ward off the chemical onslaught, save be aware of where many of them come from and what products might be avoided to curb the absorption at least a bit. Here is a list six toxins we are exposed to on a regular basis. This is a short list, and much compressed. But there is prolific information available on the internet and at your library.


Cast into the atmosphere by the incomplete combustion of fuels...both organic and from 75 different harmful chemical compounds. Chemicals used to control weeds, (Agent Orange) treat wood, among other uses. They bind to molecules and travel through air and water and eventually to soils and food. Most people ingest dioxins in fish, dairy and eggs.

Risk to humans: cancer, non cancerous growths, dioxin in placenta may cause behavioral problems in children, diabetes, liver and heart disease, skin problems, fatigue and slowed nervous reactions.

PCBs (chlorinated hydrocarbons)

Man made chemicals manufactured and used from 1929 till 1979...a broad range of types and applications in industry, including electrical, hydraulic, heating, paints, dyes, plastics and rubber. Though banned in the U.S. in 1979, the chemical stability that once made them desirable, now allows them to linger in the environment. Concentrated in sewage, vegetation, marine life...and humans.

Risk to humans: fetal and infant death, birth defects, mental retardation. PCBs alter immune, hormonal, nervous and enzyme systems in humans, thus affecting a number of conditions and diseases.


A group of hundreds of chemicals used in manufacturing plastics, adhesives, lubricating oils, detergents, food packaging, auto interiors, perfumes, soap, shampoo, hairspray, and nail polish. And TOYS. Also plastic bags, medical storage and IV hoses....the list is endless. Phthalates have been banned and restricted in some European countries, particularly in toys. People are exposed from using household, garden and personal products containing phthalates, breathing household dust contaminated with them, having a medical treatment such as blood transfusion or dialysis, and living near a manufacturing plant that uses phthalates in their products.

Risk to humans: toxic to liver, kidneys, testes, nervous system. Researchers are finding high levels of phthalates in women of reproductive age. These are the women most bombarded by Madison Avenue's ad campaigns selling the concept of "perfect woman", and most likely to be using a multitude of personal care and cosmetic products containing the toxin.


A powerful insecticide first synthesized in 1874, the use of which (for killing off populations of disease carrying insects) won Paul Hermann Muller a 1948 Nobel Prize! The disastrous environmental results of the use of DDT, mainly to animals including humans, may have started the striving for environmental awareness we focus on today. The use of DDT drove many bird species to the brink of extinction. Though DDT has been banned for use in the U.S. since 1971; we still find DDT in our every day environment....air, water, rain, soil, animals...including humans, sometimes in high levels. Humans ingest DDT in meat, fish, poultry, fruit, root and leafy vegetables....and breast milk.

Risk to humans: reproductive problems, premature birth, birth defects, low birth weight, decreased milk supply in nursing mothers. Breast cancer, neurological disorders, cognitive retardation and slow development in children. Due to increases in insect borne diseases such as malaria and West Nile Virus, there is discussion and advocacy in some parts of the world to begin using DDT again. We do not learn, apparently.

Organophosphate Pesticides

A number of chemical compounds used as insecticides and herbicides that work by attacking the nervous systems of the organism they are meant to control. They are nerve gases, so to speak, close to Sarin and VX nerve gases in make up. Human exposure can be very damaging from direct exposure; from inhaling, ingesting and skin contact. We use these chemicals in our yards...more than 50% of organophosphate poisoning is in children under 6 years old. There is a high percentage of contamination in migrant and Hispanic agricultural workers. These toxins linger in and on our commercially grown foods, and in our drinking water,and they "rest" in soil.

Risk to humans: neurological damage, reproductive problems, cancer, liver damage and disease. Weakness, paralysis, muscle cramping & spasms, headaches, nausea, dizziness, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, sweating and tearing of eyes, breathing difficulties and tightness of chest, irregular heart beat, and memory loss. Research continues to assess the long term effects of exposure to organophosphates.

Semi-volatile and Volatile organic compounds

This is a group of chemicals that overlap with phthalates and are used in the manufacturing of building materials, fabric treatments, flame retardants, wood stains, varnish, paint thinners gasoline. All things we have in our households and which we can be exposed to....slowly..... on a daily basis. These compounds are gradually released and become airborne, attach to dust and other particles and are inhaled. Tests show increasing contamination in human milk, blood and tissue samples.

Risk to humans: birth defects, slowed childhood development, reproductive problems, damage to brain and nervous system, changes in hormone activity.

It IS scary to think that there is No way to shield ourselves from these pervasive poisons. The best we can do is to avoid using many of the products know to be toxic (If you've read any of my recipe/cooking hubs, you can now see why I advocate using only stainless steel, glass, cast iron, and stoneware, non-stick, no plastic! Tough it out.)

And we can become activists and advocates, despite the fact we are up against huge corporations who would deny their use of chemicals to increase profit is dangerous to mankind...for generations to come....despite the fact they ultimately put their own progeny at risk. Do some research, write some congressmen and senators.

I have derived and compressed information from many online and published sources, but for some of the best information about The Body Burden simply type in Body Burden on your favorite search engine and.....get educated!


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    • naturalbeautycare profile image


      9 years ago from Australia

      Hi, Fantastic article; I agree wholeheartedly! At least there are more and more people becoming aware of this huge problem; maybe one day organic will become the 'norm', and people will look back at the crazy days when all this junk was put into our bodies!....well, we can live in hope anyway! If you have time, take a look at the research that author Jordan Rubin has done into this (if you haven't already)...very well researched, helpful stuff.(he wrote 'The Makers Diet')

      kind regards, gia : )

      p.s; I love yr writing style too

    • Mary Tinkler profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Tinkler 

      10 years ago from Gresham

      Hello countrywoman.....In the US organic products must meet certain standards. I have no idea how well regulated producers are, a or if the certification process is thorough and stringent. But I do know the word Organic and Natural are buzz words that marketers KNOW will sell products. I suspect there are many misleading labels, misrepresentations and some 'cheaters' when it comes to selling organic goods. Remember "natural" does not guarantee "organic".

      Here is a link, below, to the USDA, an abreviated version of the certification process. As I understand it the producer must submit a record of all substances applied to the land only in the previous 3 years, (among other criteria). Since we do not fully know how long substances linger in the soil, or what might be in any H2O sources the plants and animals receive, (or whether or not our cauliflower really NEEDS Prozac) or how many contaminates in the air might be best conclusion would be that do not know if what you are consuming is completely free of chemicals. I have no way of knowing the levels of contaminates that might be in my own garden soil.....even though I've gorwn without chemicals here for over 10 years. We are so inundated with chemicals and toxins, there is absolutely no escaping some level of exposure.

    • countrywomen profile image


      10 years ago from Washington, USA

      If we buy "organic" vegetables in supermarkets are we still putting chemicals in our body? It's shocking even in milk products esp for babies (like in china) chemicals are found. Nice hub.

    • desert blondie profile image

      desert blondie 

      10 years ago from Palm trees, swimming pools, lots of sand, lots of sunscreen

      so frustrating what happened with the "cavalier" sprayer! But so admirable that you're trying to do a healthy, mindful, body-blessing, garden. I know you don't need my advice, but try to focus on the good you're doing, NOT the ills of the entire world (even when they encroach so closely). I'm sure you're heeding your own words above to Robie2. BEST!

    • Mary Tinkler profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Tinkler 

      10 years ago from Gresham

      Robie2.....there is a wealth of info, and reseach results on this topic on the web. Don't linger there too long though, or you will be NEEDING the anti-depressants that have found their way into your drinking water.

    • robie2 profile image

      Roberta Kyle 

      10 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Excellent information. I'm bookmarking and giving you a big thumbs up on this one!

    • monitor profile image


      10 years ago from The world.

      This is the aweful truth. Body Burden. Not fair at all is it. But if we band our voices together in educating and opposing life will improve. One person can make a difference.


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