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CDC Report on Environmental Chemical Exposure

The latest national survey on the levels of chemical pollutants such as heavy metals, toxic solvents, endocrine-disrupters, flame-retardant chemicals, PCBs, and pesticides such as DDT in the bodies of pregnant and non-pregnant Americans.

October 22, 2012 |
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Supplementary Info

Sources Cited



Every few years the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention measures the levels of chemical pollutants in the bodies of thousands of Americans from across the country. What did the latest report tell us about our toxic burden? Or more importantly that of pregnant women in the United States. Published last Summer in the journal of the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, here is the list of chemicals they measured on the left, and on the right is the percentage of women, both pregnant and nonpregnant, with detectable levels of these pollutants in their bodies. Look at those numbers. Most women in this country are contaminated with heavy metals, a number of toxic solvents, endocrine disrupters, fire retardant chemicals, PCBS, and pesticides like DDT. And that's just the first page.

Continuing on the next page: more pesticides, plastics chemicals, industrial toxins circulating through their bloodstreams. Look at these numbers, in many cases 99 or 100% of the hundreds of women tested were found with these chemicals in their bodies—and, potentially, passing them, on to the next generation.

On average, pregnant women harbored about 35 difference chemicals. Each of these bars represents one woman, and that's how many chemicals they found in each of their bodies.

Bottom line, they "found widespread exposure to pregnant women in the United States to multiple chemical compounds and their metabolites, including both banned and contemporary contaminants.” Americans are walking chemical cocktails.

So let us explore what consequences they may have, and how to minimize our exposure them.

That will be the topic, of this next series of videos on

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Kerry Skinner.

To help out on the site please email

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

This is the first of a long series of videos on the role of diet in both accumulating and eliminating industrial pollutants that build up in the food chain. Today and tomorrow's video-of-the-day President’s Cancer Panel Report on Environmental Risk set the stage and then we'll get down to the nitty-gritty in terms of what we may want to avoid to decrease our toxic burden. I've done 20 previous videos on persistent organic pollutants including Fish Oil in Troubled WatersFood Sources of PCB Chemical PollutantsDioxins in the Food Supply, and Industrial Pollutants in Vegans. I also cover a thousand other topics.

For some context, please check out my associated blog posts: How Chemically Contaminated Are We? Pollutants in Californian Breast Tissue, and  Protecting Our Babies From Pollutants

If you haven't yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    This is the first of a long series of videos on the role of diet in both accumulating and eliminating industrial pollutants that build up in the food chain. Today and tomorrow’s video-of-the-day President’s Cancer Panel Report on Environmental Risk set the stage and then we’ll get down to the nitty-gritty in terms of what we may want to avoid to decrease our toxic burden. I’ve done 20 previous videos on persistent organic pollutants including Fish Oil in Troubled Waters, Food Sources of PCB Chemical Pollutants, Dioxins in the Food Supply, and Industrial Pollutants in Vegans. I also cover a thousand other topics.

    If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

  • Shane Jackson

    The video is currently set to private

    • Massimo

      Same here!

    • Michael Greger M.D.

      I’m so sorry–all fixed now!

  • Liz

    same here

  • Shane Jackson

    That’s quite frightening especially since my finacee just got pregnant. I’m hoping the follow up videos will tell me how by eating vegan and organically that a good bit of this can be avoided.

    • Veganrunner

      Congratulations Shane. Kids are the best.

    • Tan Truong

      Congrats to you and your fiancee. Best wishes!

  • Veganrunner

    The key is definitely minimizing exposure.

  • BPCveg

    Glad that you have returned to this important topic…but, it is also important to know how the concentration of these detected chemicals compares with that needed to cause damage to the body.  Detecting this wide range of chemicals may only mean that we have developed more sensitive detectors.

    By the way, last I checked, the link for the first source cited (Woodruff et al.) is broken. Thanks in advance for fixing this.

  • Thea

     I’m looking forward to this series.  Thanks.

  • Jordan Hale

    Fantastic information that is disturbing and inspiring at the same time.  With the masses asleep and unable to grasp this “Voice in the wilderness” how can we get this out to the human race in a way that will change our direction? 

  • Sdf3

    private again

  • Monique

    Dr Greger – it still says that it is a private video. :-(

  • Tan Truong

    The video is also private to me.

    • Michael Greger M.D.

       It has been reset to public, so sorry for the unexplained switch back to private!

  • 1slvrfx

    What a shame that most of the personal and household products we use contain harmful and toxic chemicals. Most people are completely unaware.

  • C McSheehy

    Are you going to address chemicals from GMOs in our food & environment?

  • rick

    Is there a video that makes a statement on the value of organic?