Want to find out what weird chemicals are in your body?

June 2019—The proper term for weird chemicals in your body is “body burden.” If you’re in the mood for a horror flick but can’t get to the theater, you can google the term. It can be pretty scary. So what happens when you want to find out what’s in your own body? Emily Holden wanted to find out. Though she shops at Whole Foods, she grew up in a Cancer Alley and at least eight family members died from cancer.

The first thing she discovered is the tests aren’t routine; you can’t just go to your doctor’s lab and have a blood test. Some things there is no test for and the others are expensive.

Some doctors warned her about the psychological effects of knowing. You can limit your exposure somewhat but it’s largely a public policy issue. See no evil. However, as long as the public is largely oblivious, we’re not likely to put pressure on the government to change the rules.

To learn more, Holden reached out to Robert Wright, director of the Institute for Exposomic Research at Mount Sinai in New York.

In the US, Wright says, companies start using new chemicals and don’t stop using them unless people get sick and can prove how it happened. Medicines are tested before market, but most other products aren’t.

After the tests, Holden learned she had measurable levels of plasticizers, pesticides and a fire retardant. She still had chemicals related to smoking because she’d visited family members who smoked two weeks prior. She was able to take a few actions to reduce her risk like throwing out some cosmetics and getting an exhaust fan for her stove. Wright’s advice was to continue to take care of herself—eat healthy, exercise—and limit her exposure where she can. And basically hope for the best, hope she has good genes to ward off the effects.