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Our study reveals that Maine people are polluted. We found a total of 46 different toxic chemicals of the 71 that we tested for in the bodies of 13 Maine people. The average body burden was 36 toxic chemicals detected in the blood, urine and hair of each participant. See results tables.

These findings show that Maine people are routinely exposed to many industrial chemicals.

These chemicals have hazardous properties such as toxicity (ability to harm life), and in some cases persistence (being slow to degrade) and bioaccumulation (building up in the food chain). Therefore, the routine exposure of Maine people to these chemicals poses a potentially serious health threat.

Many of the chemicals we found in Maine people are added to everyday consumer products, ranging from cosmetics and personal care products, televisions and electronics, furniture and carpeting, to cookware and clothing. They are found in common materials such as plastics, coatings, and adhesives. People are exposed during the use and disposal of these products, the ingestion of household dust, indoor air pollution, contaminants in the food supply, and drinking water.

The finding of dozens of mostly unregulated toxic chemicals in average Maine people shows that the safety system for industrial chemicals is broken and needs to be fixed. Current laws and practices do not prevent routine exposure to hazardous chemicals in our daily lives.

For detailed results for all chemicals measured in each participant, see the results tables. Table 1 identifies the 71 chemicals tested, which fall into five chemical groups: phthalates, PBDEs (a group of brominated flame retardants), PFCs (the Teflon chemicals), bisphenol A chemicals (BPA), and metals (lead, mercury, and arsenic). Every one of the five groups of chemicals tested was detected in Maine people, although not every chemical was found in every participant.

Table 2 reports all of the chemical testing results for each individual participant. It shows which chemicals were found and at what level. It also indicates which chemicals were not detected and the lowest level measurable (i.e., the limit of detection). Table 3 summarizes the results for the whole group of Mainers and compares them to similar results from the national biomonitoring program or similar body burden studies conducted in certain states or nationally.

The findings for each of the five chemical groups are summarized on the following pages. The sections of the report that follow provide more details on each group of chemicals, along with citations to authoritative sources of information.

Phthalates -- from Beauty Products to Beastly Vinyl. These chemicals are ubiquitous and unregulated in the United States. All seven of the phthalate compounds were detected in nearly every person tested. The levels of six of the seven phthalates detected in the participants were higher than the national average. For one phthalate, the median Maine value was higher than 95% of all Americans tested. Three phthalates were found in Maine people at levels higher than 75% of all Americans. Phthalates are added to thousands of personal care products and soft polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic used in everything from shower curtains and packaging to inflatable toys and IV bags in hospitals.

PBDEs -- the Toxic Fire Retardants. These chemicals are found everywhere we look. Maine and others have recently banned two commercial PBDE products known as Penta and Octa, and is considering legislation to replace the most widely used PBDE mix called Deca with safer alternatives. We found 28 of the PBDEs in Maine people out of the 46 that we tested for (out of the 209 PBDEs known to science). The PBDE levels found in Maine people were generally comparable to those found in other studies. Two of the PBDEs that are known breakdown products of Deca, BDE-153 and BDE-183, were higher than levels found in Washington and California residents. Eighty percent of Deca is added to the plastic casing of televisions to slow the spread of flames in a fire, with additional uses in textiles (commercial drapes and furniture) and electrical wires and cables.

PFCs -- the Stain-Resistant Teflon Chemicals. Of the 13 perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) tested, we found six in Maine people. These persistent chemicals are found everywhere in the environment. They are largely unregulated, although voluntary actions are being taken to reduce the use of PFOS and PFOA, the two most studied of the PFCs. Three of the PFCs detected in Maine people were found at levels above the average or median levels reported in other studies. The PFCs are used as stain- and water-resistant coatings on furniture, clothing, and carpets; grease-resistant coatings in fast-food packaging; non-stick coatings for cookware; and other Teflon products including the breathable, water-resistant fabric known as Gore-Tex.

Bisphenol A -- the Hormone-Disrupting Plastic Building Block. Three Maine women had blood levels of bisphenol A that were six to ten times higher than the average reported for women in the scientific literature. In five women of the 13 Mainers tested, we found a metabolite of a related chemical known as bisphenol A diglycidyl ether (BADGE). Bisphenol A is widely used and totally unregulated. BPA mimics the actions of naturally occurring hormones in the body, so exposure to very low doses may adversely affect reproduction, sexual development, and other biological systems. Early fetal exposure in the womb may predispose adults to breast cancer, obesity, and other chronic diseases. BPA is a basic building block chemical used to make polycarbonate plastics used in baby bottles, reusable water bottles, and many other products. BPA and BADGE exposure also results from the epoxy resins used in the plastic linings of canned foods and in dental sealants.

Toxic Metals -- the Age-Old Poisons. Every one of the 13 Mainers tested had measurable levels of lead, mercury, and arsenic in their bodies. Blood lead levels were generally below the national average, although no safe level may exist. Lead exposure results from renovating lead-painted houses, old drinking water pipes, and handling products containing lead, such as ammunition and electrical wire. The methylmercury levels measured in hair almost certainly resulted from consumption of mercury-contaminated fish, such as canned tuna and tuna sushi. Total arsenic levels were relatively high in a few of the Mainers tested, although this may be due to relatively non-toxic forms of organic arsenic found in shellfish. Detections of the highly toxic inorganic form of arsenic probably resulted from natural drinking water contamination. Arsenic was formerly widely used as pesticide in pressure-treated wood and for orchards and along roadways.


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