This first-person account from National Geographic details the reporter David Ewing Duncan's quest to identify the chemicals his body has absorbed over his lifetime.
His story began a year ago, shortly after a battery of 14 blood tests to find levels of 320 chemicals residing in his body, acquired "by merely living." Like, for example, chemicals absorbed from the dump near his boyhood Kansas home that's now an EPA superfund site.
Recently, Duncan was told, among other alarming news, that his test for the presence of flame-retarding compounds called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE's), which can interfere with thyroid function, cause reproductive and neurological problems, and hamper neurological development, showed alarmingly high levels -- 10 times the average found in U.S. residents and more than 200 times the average for Swedes.
The probable cause was extensive air travel (some 200,000 miles annually) leading to exposure to airplane interiors sprayed with flame retardants.
Other chemicals that were found in his body include PFOA's, PCB's, mercury, and phthalates.
Illnesses on the Rise
Duncan notes that several illnesses have been rising mysteriously, such as autism, leukemia, male birth defects, and childhood brain cancer, and notes that some experts suspect a link to the many man-made chemicals in our food, water, and air.