About Testing for Toxic Chemicals
Information about getting tested for toxic chemicals
Since the release of the Pollution in People study, the Washington Toxics Coalition and the Toxic-Free Legacy Coalition have received many inquiries from individuals who want to be tested for the toxic chemicals in their bodies. Before making the decision to get tested, there are two things to think about: the significance of potential results, and the availability and cost of testing.
The significance of potential results
Knowing the levels of toxic chemicals in your body can empower you to take action to reduce your exposures where possible and to speak out for policies that keep toxic chemicals out of consumer products and food. However, there are limitations in what test results can tell you about your health or your overall chemical exposures.
First, it is impossible to test for all the toxic chemicals that are in our environment, and choosing the chemicals to test for can be a complicated process.
Second, the test results show levels of the selected chemicals in your body, but do not show how the chemicals got there or what health effects they may have caused. Exposures to toxic chemicals have been linked to an increased risk for developing a wide array of health conditions, but many factors influence the development of disease and it is usually difficult to isolate one specific cause.
Third, there is no way to remove all of the toxic chemicals from your body. Some doctors offer detoxification services and companies sell a variety of over-the-counter products, but we do not recommend trying these unless they are recommended by your doctor.
Reducing the levels of toxic chemicals that enter your body is a more effective long-term strategy. For more information on reducing your exposure to toxic chemicals, please see the Safer Alternatives section of our site. There you will find Top Actions For Your Health, as well as tips on choosing safer products and food.
The unfortunate reality is that lack of government oversight has allowed toxic chemicals to enter the bodies of every person in the world. Please help us to work toward a toxic-free future by contacting your elected officials and telling them that we need a common sense chemicals policy that will keep toxic chemicals out of the environment and protect our health and that of our children! Take Action >
Availability and cost of testing
If you decide to get tested, some tests can be ordered through your family doctor. Tests for the heavy metals lead, arsenic, and mercury should be relatively easy to obtain, with costs ranging from approximately $40 to $130.
Others can also be ordered through your doctor but you may need to provide the information about the laboratory that will do the testing. This is the case for PCBs, DDT and other organochlorine pesticides, and organophosphate pesticides. If you are interested in obtaining these tests, please contact these laboratories. Costs range from $105 to $185 per chemical or chemical group. Do note that some doctors focus on offering testing for patients with known and/or documented chemical exposures.
Other tests, such as those for phthalates, PBDEs, and perfluorinated compounds, are more costly ($600 to $1000 per chemical group) and generally cannot be ordered individually. There may be opportunities for obtaining these tests, however, so if you are interested in covering your own costs for these tests please contact the Washington Toxics Coalition.
The cost of testing participants in the Pollution in People study for a panel of chemicals was approximately $3,000 per person.
In addition to checking with your provider for information on their chemical testing services, the following physicians are among those in the Puget Sound region who can test for toxic chemicals.
These physicians specialize in chemical-related illnesses and can test for toxic chemicals, including but not limited to heavy metals:
- Gordon Baker, MD, 206-243-9004 (Burien): offers testing for some pesticides
- David Buscher, MD, Northwest Center for Environmental Medicine, 425-453-0288 (Bellevue): offers testing for some pesticides
- Liliane Bartha, MD, Olympia Health Renewal, 360-357-6443: willing to work with labs to offer testing for various chemicals
These naturopathic physicians in Seattle have expertise in detoxification:
- Kristin Allott, ND, L.Ac, Dynamic Paths, 206-579-2757
- John Hibbs, ND, Bastyr Center for Natural Health, 206-834-4100
- Phoebe Yin, ND, Bastyr Center for Natural Health, 206-834-4190
Additional listings of naturopathic physicians who have expertise in detoxification can be found on the website for the Washington State Association of Naturopathic Physicians: www.wanp.org