Transcript: Flame-Retardant Chemical Contamination
Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.
For years past, I’ve been talking about the industrial chemical carcinogens—DDT, PCBs, dioxins—crawling up the food chain. How the breast milk of vegetarians may have only 1% to 2% of these toxins. How supermarket surveys show that eating fish is the worst, and eating vegan is the best. How U.S. fast food is a toxic soup—Big Mac, cheese pizza, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Häagen-Dazs. Showed how the levels were just through the ceiling, because these industrial carcinogens build up in animal fat. Even worse at McDonald’s and Pizza Hut—but nothing like the levels of toxic waste we expose our children to by feeding them chickens. But I covered these studies in my annual updates ten years ago.
Thankfully, the levels of these toxins are in decline. Agent Orange was banned in 1970, DDT banned in ’72, leaded gas in ’73, PCBs in ’79. And we’re seeing the daily intake go down around the world; seeing the levels in our bodies go down—particularly for those born later. So they weren’t floating in the womb in it, or getting as much in breast milk.
But, just as these other industrial toxins were in decline, Swedish researchers noticed an exponential increase in breast milk levels of PBDE: PCB-like chemicals used as flame retardants in computers, mattresses, drapes, carpeting, teddy bears; everywhere.
So researchers recently started looking here, in the United States. Note that by 1996, Sweden was up to 4. By the same year in the U.S., we were over 40. And now, we’re over 400. Nursing women in the U.S. have, in their breast milk, by far the highest levels of flame-retardant chemicals compared to women anywhere in the world—by literally orders of magnitude. Who cares, though? Maybe our babies will become…fire-resistant!
No. No. These chemicals are likely carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, and developmental neurotoxins. So why are Americans getting so much of it? We didn’t know, until this year: fire retardants in U.S. food. But where? Dairy, beef, bacon, fish. And, once again, chicken is so contaminated it messes up my graph. Squish the rest down, and chicken fat.
What about those who don’t eat any animal products, though? Well, similar to previous findings of low dioxin levels in vegans, vegans have lower PBDE levels as well. And the longer you’re vegan, the lower your levels fall. As you can see over here, the longer we choose not to consume animal products, the lower our levels fall. It may take 20 years, but our bodies can eventually cleanse themselves. Breast is still best; even when feeding our babies these toxins. But vegan breast milk is better.
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