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Recently on NPR I heard that nearly every person in the United States has flame retardant chemicals (PBDEs) in their bodies, in concentrations ranging up to as high as 10,000 parts per billion in some cases. A more typical concentration is actually closer to 30 ppb, but still I was left to wonder what that means to me.

10,000 ppb is equal to 1 part per 100,000. Consider that a 220 lb person weighs 100,000 grams, so a person of that weight might have a full gram of flame retardant distributed throughout their tissues. More typically, at 30 ppb, such a person would likely contain about 3 milligrams of PBDEs, and someone half that weight, just 1.5 mg.

1.5 to 3 mg isn’t much – picture a pile the size of a few grains of salt, or perhaps half the size of a grain of rice. A full gram would be somewhat larger; say a thimble full. Your dosage, and mine, will vary.

About then I started thinking, what about all of the other chemicals out there? A few hundred ppb here, a few ppm there, various things like preservatives, dyes, fungicides, herbicides, synthetic hormones, antibiotics, chemicals to make plastics softer, harder, or resistant to UV, the plastics themselves…

I wonder what the pile might look like if all of those components could be heaped onto a little plate for each of us to see: our personal synthetic chemical load. Gulp.

That thought led me to this one:

It’s also in your dog. Dogs spend a lot of time on carpet or chemically treated lawns, chewing on plastic toys and absorbing, as we do, the various cleansers, perfumes and pest control chemicals we use around or on them. Sort of gives the term “Canine Supplements” a whole new meaning.
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