The chemicals that linger for decades in your blood

New EU restrictions to ban around 12,000 substances have been proposed in what the European Environmental Bureau has called the world’s “largest ever ban on toxic chemicals”, but changes in regulation can be incredibly slow moving. “There is a long way to go but with the new EU chemical strategy and European Green Deal, we are hopeful that things can improve a lot. But even then, that would take a long time before that change is visible in your blood, I ‘m afraid. “

Labels allow consumers to make a conscious choice without having to understand everything.

That’s where we come in, as consumers, and more importantly, as citizens. “We can all use our voice by demanding greater transparency, clearer labeling and stricter regulation,” adds Lennquist. “With pressure from consumers and everyone else within the supply chain, the chemical manufacturing industry could shift much more rapidly. And reducing toxic chemical pollution is not only good for business, but for every one of us and future generations.”

Blood matters

As a regular blood donor myself, I wondered whether the NHS Blood Donation service tests for POPs like the ones in my body. As expected, they confirmed they screen for diseases such as hepatitis, not synthetic chemicals. Of course, chemical contaminants may well be the last thing on your mind if in need of a blood transfusion, but it got me thinking. Do we need to be more cautious about sharing blood and passing on legacy contaminants? Or is blood donation one way to offload toxics – because the contaminated blood flows out, and the body then produces fresh, uncontaminated blood?

Since publishing my book, new research has been published about just this. Firefighting foams are known to contain high levels of PFASs, so firefighters are exposed to higher than average levels of those chemicals. The landmark trial tested 285 Australian firefighters for PFAS in their blood over the course of one year. Some donated blood, some did not. PFAS chemicals bind to serum proteins in the blood, and researchers found that PFAS levels in the bloodstream of those donating were significantly reduced. One possible explanation is that the donors’ bodies did indeed offload the PFAS-contaminated blood, and replaced it with unpolluted blood.

While it is still early days for this research, the feasibility of blood donation as a longterm, scalable solution is still questionable, as Lennquist explains: “For specifically exposed persons, like firefighters, it may be an option to empty the contaminated blood and let Your body produces new blood. That requires that you will not be exposed again. For the average person the exposure is quite constant and I do not see that it could be a solution for the general population. something about PFAS. “

While removal may well be a crucial step in some cases, surely the most appropriate solution is to turn off the tap at source and prevent PFAS and other toxic chemicals entering our bodies in the first place.

Listen to My Toxic Cocktail, Anna Turns’s investigation for BBC Radio 4’s Costing the Earth series on BBC Sound.

Go Toxic Free: Easy and Sustainable Ways to Reduce Chemical Pollution by Anna Turns is out now.


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