As a cut of meat, you're inedible!
September 8, 2004 1:36 PM   Subscribe

Body Burden : The pollution in people "In a study led by Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York...researchers at two major laboratories found an average of 91 industrial compounds, pollutants, and other chemicals in the blood and urine of nine volunteers.... Scientists refer to this contamination as a person’s body burden. Of the 167 chemicals found, 76 cause cancer in humans or animals, 94 are toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 79 cause birth defects or abnormal development. The dangers of exposure to these chemicals in combination has never been studied."
posted by troutfishing (23 comments total)
I yearn for your tasty flesh no more, for you are too toxic to eat!

well, in a pinch I might follow Voltaire's implicit suggestion and nibble on a buttock....
posted by troutfishing at 1:44 PM on September 8, 2004

See also the Guardian's series on our "Chemical World."
posted by monju_bosatsu at 1:56 PM on September 8, 2004

Trout, the eating humans stuff is funny, but it obscures the fact that we're not the only animals stuffed with environmental toxins - and it's too bad that this

  • Chemicals that persist in the environment or bioaccumulate in the food chain must be banned.

  • is the only real mention of the role of animal-fat consumption in concentrating our toxins for us. Because although the obvious thrust of this is for regulation, while we wait for the wheels of government to work, there are changes we can make to dramatically reduce our exposure.

    PCDDs and PCDFs previously have been detected primarily in lipids of animal origin, and are usually below detection limits in vegetables and fruits. Blood dioxin levels in pure vegans have also been found to be very low in comparison with the general population, indicating a lower contribution of these foods to human dioxin body burden.
    - Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A, 63:1-18, 2001

    posted by soyjoy at 2:04 PM on September 8, 2004

    Good post.
    posted by homunculus at 2:15 PM on September 8, 2004

    homunculus - thanks.

    soyjoy - I considered packing that angle in, but I decided that might make the post too gloomy - you're quite right to mention it though, and I was actually going to do a post explicitly on the subject (bioaccumulation) before I changed my mind at the last minute and posted this instead. Maybe I'll cover your point in a day or two - unless you beat me to it!

    The low toxicity of vegans is not surprising. I eat extremely little meat and little fish, but maybe the dairy needs to go as well.

    *sigh....I sure do love my goat gouda from Trader Joes' : ( *
    posted by troutfishing at 2:33 PM on September 8, 2004

    I'm not faulting you for it, it's just it would have been nice for this whole otherwise extensive/exhaustive little site to have brought it up.

    Actually, since you mention Trader Joes, I gotta give them kudos - not only do they have a lot of good vegan options in terms of meat substitutes etc., their store-brand condiments and the like are often vegan because they're made with fewer ingredients (and fewer direct chemicals) than the average grocery store's. Now if they'd only start selling seitan...

    P.S. There's an eloquent post by alms in the Log Cabin thread that was meant to go here.
    posted by soyjoy at 2:47 PM on September 8, 2004

    Soyjoy, how many chemicals show up in a strawberry or potato grown the standard way. To paint broad sweeping generalizations about food without looking at where and how the food was grown and processed is disingenuous. There are meats that are raised in such a way that toxins are not a problem. It's where you get your food from that is at the heart of the matter, not what you eat.
    posted by stbalbach at 3:06 PM on September 8, 2004

    This is why zombies always look so unhealthy and sluggish.
    posted by onlyconnect at 3:21 PM on September 8, 2004

    I know a woman who works on this issue in California. In the course of a legislative campaign she got pregnant and had a child, and so she took the opportunity to have her breast milk tested. It tested positive for perchlorate. I can't imagine what it would be like to have a child and want to nurse it, but know that your milk contains poison. Even if breastmilk is still better than the alternatives, the knowledge that you are poisoning your child as you are feeding has to be one of the most extreme violations of basic humanity.
    posted by alms at 2:23 PM PST on September 8
    posted by five fresh fish at 4:15 PM on September 8, 2004

    A pretty good film that deals with the subject is Todd Haynes' Safe, starring Julianne Moore. Haynes has also done Velvet Goldmine & Far From Heaven. In Safe, Moore's character learns of the "body burden" and she then hangs her sense of suburban angst on that peg in the hope that cleaning herself out will bring happiness, which it doesn't, really.
    posted by CrazyJub at 7:47 PM on September 8, 2004

    Related article on why breastmilk is still best, even if it is full of toxins--and what we can do to fight the toxins.
    posted by padraigin at 8:01 PM on September 8, 2004

    stbalbach - You're right, but I can almost guarantee that soyjoy is aware of your point. But, bioaccumulation is a pernicious thing as well. PCB's and Dioxin are showing up in high concentrations in Arctic wildlife, and some young Inuit have been lately choosing to avoid eating certain animals for that very reason.

    CrazyJub - As hard as it is to scrub one's body, it's harder to scrub one's soul.

    fff - I raised that issue last year on Metafilter, several times and quite overtly. Nobody would touch it, and I decided I'd breached a sort of societal taboo.
    posted by troutfishing at 8:07 PM on September 8, 2004

    Whoa. Thanks, as usual, trout.
    posted by Shane at 8:25 PM on September 8, 2004

    Had a tooth cavity filled? Filled with dental amalgam (mercury!)? You may have A Smoking Tooth. Your fillings may be poisoning you with mercury. I'll be having mine replaced with a non-toxic version very soon.
    posted by hockeyman at 8:44 PM on September 8, 2004

    fixed padraigin's link to a pretty thorough-reading article about the risks of breast milk contamination. It concludes that the benefits outweigh the risks and also has the scary info that large amounts of these chemicals are transferred thru placenta, meaning you just plain have no choice as to protecting your child from the body burden. The article presents some pretty fair "what you can do" suggestions, including decreasing animal fat/freshwater fish consumption and more global long-term-type things. S'a good read.

    and amen re: the soul.
    posted by CrazyJub at 8:47 PM on September 8, 2004

    stbalbach, it's almost tautological that if you're looking to minimize toxins you go as organic as possible. Last time this came up I added that as an afterthought: Also, it's not a magic wand, but choosing organics at every opportunity, whether you eat animal fats or not, will indeed lower your exposure. But there's no way around the phenomenon of bioaccumulation, and there's certainly a boatload of duplicity about "organic" meat, as you'll recall from the huge blowup last year when the USDA tried to pass of meat raised on PCB- and pesticide-laced feed as "organic."

    So, great. Make some move. If you're gonna keep eating meat and dairy, try to get the most trustworthy organic source you can. If you want your body to be less toxic, cut out more animal products. This is all in combination with efforts to stop the flow of chemicals into the environment, not in lieu of it.
    posted by soyjoy at 9:33 PM on September 8, 2004

    I think highly of both soyjoy and stbalbach.
    posted by troutfishing at 9:38 PM on September 8, 2004

    I don't worry about what I eat, only where it comes from.

    The same is true for vegetables, they can be loaded with toxins, you should be concerned about where you get your food from (not the store, but the source).
    posted by stbalbach at 12:27 AM on September 9, 2004

    On a human level, considering that we live longer than we ever have done, and this is due in part to industrialisation and our abuse of complex chemicals then I'm not that bothered about the high levels of toxic organic molecules currently floating round my body. Given a choice between living to a ripe old age or dying in a field somewhere aged 35, I'm going to go for the former.
    posted by seanyboy at 1:43 AM on September 9, 2004

    dying in a field somewhere aged 35

    Those figures usually take into account child mortality which was very high; historical life expectancy for those 12+ is much higher.

    Some of the oldest lived people on earth in the 20thC came from cultures right out of the Middle Ages. Remote Japanese islands, Caucus mountains, rural French. They did something right. If your interested in this approach of examining the habits of native cultures which are healthy and long-lived, take a look at my sig under Nutrition.
    posted by stbalbach at 3:05 AM on September 9, 2004

    ...or take a look at credible research backed up by mainstream peer-reviewed scientific studies over decades.

    In stark contrast to American habits, Okinawans eat a vegetable-based diet low in both calories and fats, and rich in soy foods, and they exercise regularly.

    ''Never in the history of nutrition research has the evidence been more clear and consistent,'' wrote Bradley J. and D. Craig Willcox, twin brothers who have written ''The Okinawa Program'' about the long-running study with co-author Dr. Makoto Suzuki. ''A high-carbohydrate, low-calorie, plant-based diet is the best for long-term health.''

    I think highly of both troutfishing and stbalbach, but wish one of 'em would know when to quit.
    posted by soyjoy at 2:55 PM on September 9, 2004

    Soyjoy, the okinawa study is flawed. I'm not going to bother fighting you here once again on this, the information is out there if you care to look, but in brief the okinawans ate a diet rich in lard, among other things, at least the ones who lived a long time did. They fail to mention that in the study what people were eating 80 years ago when they were younger. You take these studies much too seriously.. you put a study up and claim objective truth, if only it was that easy. BTW sells books and makes a profit from its study "results". Atkins claims the exact opposite and he also makes money from his study "results".
    posted by stbalbach at 8:23 PM on September 9, 2004

    It's not me who's claiming objective truth, stb, it's the community of scientists whose area of expertise is nutrition. Bioaccumulation is an indisputable scientifically proven phenomenon, and a low-fat, high-carb diet has proven itself repeatedly worldwide. Yeah, I take scientific studies seriously - it's actual science that makes for crucial information such as was in trout's link. Sorry, but knowing just what's in the food I feed my family is something that yes, I take very seriously.
    posted by soyjoy at 9:22 PM on September 9, 2004

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