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What does money have to do with toxic chemicals in the body?

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

A surprising study shows the type of harmful chemicals you have in your body depends on how much money you make. The finding is a first to show we are all toxic, but from what depends on whether we are rich or poor.

Dr Jessica Tyrrell from the University of Exeter Medical School's European Centre for Environment & Human Health, in Truro, Cornwall discovered low and high income earners accumulate different types of harmful elements in the body in unexpected findings

"We've found that as people become better off, changes in their lifestyle alter the types of chemicals in their bodies, rather than reducing the overall amount. This realisation has a profound impact on the way we treat chemical build ups, suggesting we should move to dealing with groups based on lifestyle, rather than earnings."

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There has been a long held notion that people who are economically deprived have poorer diets and more likely to smoke and engage in other unhealthy lifestyle behaviors; therefore accumulating more chemicals in the blood stream that can harm health.

In an analysis of 60 population studies, researchers found people with higher incomes had urinary mercury, arsenic, caesium and thallium in their bodies. The study authors say accumulation of mercury, arsenic and thallium probably comes from eating shellfish.

Low-income earners had more lead, cadmium, antimony and bisphenol A in their urine, the study found, which was probably from cigarette smoking and poor diet.

The authors point out long-term exposure to chemicals can lead to diabetes and other diseases. For instance, BPA is linked to higher risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke from components of metabolic syndrome.

The study is a “robust analysis” of how socioeconomic status affects our risk for disease, Tyrrell concluded. The type of toxic chemicals in our body appears to depend on how much money we earn. We really are what we eat (and smoke).