The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released a report which revealed that while there has been a reduction in exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) since 1991, more needs to be done, since so many people - including young people - are still exposed to ETS.
The San Francisco Chronicle
ABC News web site
EXCERPTS from The San Francisco Chronicle, March 22, 2001, article by Robert Schlesinger of The Boston Globe, headlined: Fewer Tobacco Toxins in Blood, But study finds more mercury than expected in females, children
The study, released by the Centers for Disease
Control, marked the start of the first attempt to
track systematically the amount of chemicals in the
human body. But the study also underlined how little
scientists know about human exposure to chemicals.
In the past, scientists have used statistical models
based on the amount of chemicals in air, water and
food to guess the amount present in humans, but this
is the first look at the actual levels of accumulation.
The study used a technology called biomonitoring to
measure the chemicals in urine and blood samples
of 5,000 people around the country in 1999. The
report tracked 27 chemicals, broken down into four
broad groups: metals, including lead and mercury;
cotinine, which is a byproduct of nicotine; the
products of certain pesticides; and phthalates,
chemicals used in plastics, lubricants and solvents.
Future studies will expand to include over 100
Of the compounds tracked in this report, 24 had
never been previously measured in humans.
Still, some trends are clear.
For example, cotinine, the byproduct of nicotine, is
one of the chemicals that had previously been
measured. The cotinine levels in nonsmokers has
dropped 75 percent since 1991, according to the
"This decrease documents a dramatic reduction in
exposure of the U.S. population to environmental
tobacco smoke since 1991," said Dr. Jim Mirkle, a
co-author of the report. "However, environmental
tobacco smoke remains a major public health
concern since more than half of American youth
continue to be exposed to this known human
EXCERPTS from the ABC News web site, article by Melanie Axelrod, March 21, 2001, headlined: CDC Environmental Health Report Provides Toxin Concentration Data
Do you know what cotinine is? Chances are if you're a smoker, or someone who is exposed to secondhand smoke on a regular basis, this chemical derivative of nicotine is in your body.
The Centers for Disease Control has quantified from the blood and urine of thousands of Americans their actual exposure to potentially toxic substances. Such data could help set future environmental policy.
Cotinine is one of those substances measured in what scientists are calling a groundbreaking study of "true" environmental chemical exposure of certain potentially dangerous chemicals. The study involved a random sampling of thousands of research participants across the United States.
For the first time, the CDC has tracked national exposure levels of the U.S. population for 27 different substances — some to be proven carcinogens, some not. The study expands on previous CDC studies that tracked the concentrations of lead, cadmium and cotinine.
A significant finding of the study is that cotinine — what nicotine becomes once it enters the body — had actually dropped 75 percent in nonsmokers since 1991.
"This decrease documents a dramatic reduction in exposure of the U.S. population to environmental tobacco smoke since 1991," [Dr. Jim] Pirkle [heads up the CDC's environmental health laboratory, and a co-author of the CDC report] said. "However, environmental tobacco smoke remains a major public health concern since more than half of American youth continue to be exposed to this known human carcinogen."
The research also found that blood levels of lead in children and adults have been declining over the past few years. But some children are still at risk for lead exposure, the researchers said.
CDC scientists have tracked human concentrations of cotinine and lead