Poisons in Household Goods
By Geoff Meade, Europe Editor, PA
News in Strasbourg
Dozens of chemicals in everyday use are invading the human body and
threatening the health of future generations, it was claimed today.
Results of a survey of toxic contamination show the danger lurks in
everyday goods from televisions and sofas, computer screen casings and
plastic car trim to carpets, sofas, cosmetics, detergents and
Even the non-stick surface in a cooking pan could be a risk, according
to Malcolm Hooper, Professor of Medicinal Chemistry at the University
Unveiling the findings in Strasbourg, he said that risk could be
avoided simply by switching to cast-iron pans.
Consumers should also pay attention to what shampoo or nail varnish
they use, avoiding those containing pesticides and antiseptic
The survey involved testing human blood for the presence of 101
man-made chemicals which could cause toxic contamination.
The “guinea-pigs” were 47 people from 17 European countries, including
Four laboratories conducted the trials, including Lancaster
University’s Department of Environmental Sciences, where EU
Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom’s blood was tested last
Her results, published last December, revealing 28 of the
potentially-dangerous chemicals in her system, including DDT and other
pesticides and chemicals found in flame-retardants used in curtains,
cushions, mattresses, and plastics.
Today’s more detailed survey confirmed a risk from a range of
chemicals never subjected to detailed testing in Europe.
A total of 76 of the 101 chemicals analysed were detected during the
tests. The highest number in any individual was 54, and the average
North West Liberal Democrat MEP Chris Davies, whose test showed 49
chemicals, said the results showed the need for stronger controls on
“It has got to be a matter of concern that you have 45 or 50 chemicals
in your body, but the real problem is that we don’t know what the
consequences will be.
“Maybe they will prolong my life – after all, life expectancy is
increasing – but I would simply prefer them not to be in my body.
“They weren’t there when the world was created. They have been created
by mankind. I would prefer them to remain in the industrial products
for which they were intended, not to transfer themselves to human
Environmental group WWF, which launched the “DetoX” campaign, said it
was “frightening” that every person in the survey displayed a cocktail
of “persistent, bio-accumulative and toxic” chemicals.
The findings demonstrated the need for tighter controls on
Prof Hooper, brought in as an independent expert, said: “My concerns
are to do with the future and the growth and development of children
and of our babies, male fertility, and the health of the elderly.
“There is evidence in the survey which sends warning bells about these
The European Commission has already acknowledged that the current EU
testing regime for man-made chemicals must be updated to safeguard
human health and the environment.
Current standards are more than 20 years old, and only about 10% of
the chemical ingredients currently used in household products go
through sufficiently rigorous checking.
The survey offers household tips on avoiding many of the chemicals and
compounds in use today: wash fruit and vegetables before eating, to
remove DDT; avoid buying upholstered furniture or textiles
fire-proofed with the flame retardant HBCD, or treated with flame
retardant PBDEs; avoid fatty foods, which contain higher levels of the
pesticide HCB than non-fatty foods; avoid shampoos and lotions
containing Lindane, once widely used as an insecticide.
It was banned across the EU for all farming uses in 2003, but can
still be found in creams and shampoos used to control head lice and
the skin disease scabies; buy children’s teething toys made of
Six phthaltes used in toys for the under-threes are already banned,
but the survey recommends avoiding them altogether; keep rooms
containing computer and electronic equipment well-ventilated to
minimise inhalation of the flame-retardant TBBP-A, particles of which
can escape into the air from products containing printed circuit