Blood test shows chemicals in Wallstrom's body

 

The European Union's environment chief said today her body contained 28 potentially toxic chemicals as she gave a practical demonstration of the case for new safety rules that are opposed by industry.

A blood test on European Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom for man-made compounds commonly found in televisions, carpets, furniture and food highlighted the presence of DDT, a pesticide the EU banned from farms in 1983 after it was found to harm wildlife and attack the nervous system.

"In just a couple of generations we have accumulated thousands of chemicals that were not there in our grandfathers' and grandmothers' bodies," Ms Wallstrom told a news conference.

She helped launch the proposed new chemicals safety law last week, which would mean that tens of thousands of chemicals developed before 1981, and exempt from checks under existing EU safety rules, would be re-evaluated for safety.

Industry has said the proposed rules will cost jobs and criticised a concentration by environmentalists on what it says are minute traces of chemicals in the body. It also points out many chemicals have been very useful.

Chemicals such as DDT do not break down easily and build up in the fat of humans and other animals. Significant quantities are transferred to babies while they are in the womb or breast feeding.

Toxico-pathologist Mr Vyvyan Howard, who presented Wallstrom's test results, said levels of chemicals in her blood were average, but would have been two to three times higher before Ms Wallstrom gave birth to her two sons.

"If you breast feed a child for six months, it will get 17 percent of its lifetime dose of chemicals," Howard said. Chemicals that mimic the body's hormones could be especially damaging at small doses, he added.