Toxin build-up is highest in young
Study finds more chemicals in children than adults
Children as young as nine have more manufactured chemicals in their blood than their grandparents and these substances are suspected of disrupting development and hormones, according to tests on seven volunteer families across the country.
Eighty manufactured chemicals were detected in blood tests for 104 substances on 33 people. Children were found to have 75 in their blood, as did their parents, but their grandmothers only had 56. The children also had higher concentrations of some chemicals.
The substances tested for are known to be building up in the environment and include brominated flame retardants used in furniture and televisions, and perfluorinated chemicals used in the manufacture of non-stick pans and stain resistant treatments for carpets and clothing.
A campaign to restrict the use of chemicals which accumulate in the blood - backed by the WWF (formerly the World Wide Fund for Nature), the Women's Institute and the Co-operative bank - is trying to get the European Union to toughen its stance.
Justin Woolford, WWF's chemicals and health campaign director, said: "These results are extremely worrying because of the unknown long-term health effects of the majority of industrial chemicals people are exposed to. The contamination of three generations of UK families ... illustrates that industry and government have failed to control these chemicals. The UK and the European Union must ... ensure that these chemicals are banned and replaced with safer alternatives."
Eighty-two per cent of the people tested had at least one perfluorinated chemical in their blood; DEHP, which is a suspected hormone-disrupting chemical used in plastics, PVC flooring, food packaging and toiletries was found in more than 75%.
Chemicals such as PCBs and DDE, a breakdown product of DDT, were found in everyone despite being banned in the UK at least a decade before the children were born, but on average the older generations had higher concentrations.
BDE, a brominated flame retardant, was found in seven people in the survey, most of whom were children.
The families tested were from Edinburgh, Welshpool, Manchester, Stourport, Gloucester, south Devon and Suffolk.
Kate Daley, campaigns manager for the Co-operative bank, said: "For most parents their child's health and well being is paramount, but sadly our latest research reveals that our children are being contaminated ... there is little we can do to prevent it. We want to see chemicals like these phased out and replaced with safer alternatives before it's too late."
More than 60 leading independent scientists have signed a declaration calling for measures to reduce exposure to persistent and very bioaccumulative chemicals, and hormone or endocrine disrupting chemicals.
The Co-operative bank refuses to invest in companies that "manufacture chemicals which are persistent in the environment and linked to long term health concerns".
The report, called Contaminated: the next generation, showed connections between the products used by and the diets of those surveyed and the chemicals detected in their blood.
For example, it is widely accepted that oily fish contains high levels of PCBs. The highest numbers of these chemicals were found in family members whose diets are high in such foods.
Other studies have shown a correlation between the number of electrical appliances in an office and the levels of flame-retardant chemicals in the office air.
This may help explain how people become contaminated by these chemicals, the study said.
Paul Brown, environment correspondent, The Guardian
Friday October 8, 2004