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The Chemicals That Came To Stay

Pollution in People Report - Chapter 6 - PCBs and DDT - section 1

Some chemicals just won’t go away.

Rachel Carson taught us that lesson more than 40 years ago, when she issued a wake-up call in her book Silent Spring. Pesticides like DDT, then in common use for everything from mosquito control to orchard spraying, were not breaking down into harmless chemicals after their use. Instead, as Carson pointed out, the chemicals were building up in soil and sediment, fish and wildlife, threatening to destroy the very fabric of life.

For the Pollution in People study, we tested for DDT and PCBs, two chemicals that were long ago banned but continue to haunt us. These chemicals persist in the environment and our bodies. Women pass them on to their children in the womb and through breastmilk. And as each of us ages, our load of these chemicals increases.

Ann Holmes Redding - lgThe Rev. Ann Holmes Redding sees this chemical contamination as a corruption of the sanctity of life. As an Episcopal priest and New Testament scholar, Ann believes our bodies are a gift from God and that we have a responsibility to care for them. But for nearly her entire life, Ann’s body has been home to unwelcome chemical imposters like DDT and PCBs. Her Pollution in People study results showed that she has 8.7 ppb DDT, a level high enough to put her in the top 25% of people nationwide. She also carries 1.5 ppb PCBs, again at the high end of national exposures.