Rich and Poor Polluted by Different Toxins

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Wealthy Americans acquire more than money. They also accumulate a different mix of toxins in their bodies than poorer Americans do.

Wealthy Americans can afford pricey seafood dishes, like sushi or salmon. Since fish and other aquatic animals accumulate heavy metals from the watery food web, higher income Americans can also end up with more mercury and other metals in their bodies. Higher economic status correlates to higher contamination with mercury, arsenic, caesium and thallium, among other heavy metals, according to research published in Environment International.

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Sunscreen also contaminates the wealthy more than the poor. The chemical benzophenone-3, or oxybenzone, blocks ultraviolet rays from the sun. Although the Environmental Working Group, a consumer watchdog organization, warned that oxybenzone may be harmful, the Centers for Disease Control noted that the human health effects from low levels of exposure to the chemical are unknown.

Lower-income Americans’ bodies were more likely to be  contaminated with lead and cadmium. These chemicals may be a result of higher rates of smoking among the poor compared to the wealthy.

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The chemical bisphenol A, or BPA, also occurred at higher levels in lower income groups. BPA-lined food cans protect the contents from degrading. BPA is also used to produce other types of containers and receipt paper also uses BPA. Research suggests that exposure to BPA can have a variety of negative health effects. For example, male mice exposed to BPA in the womb expressed more female behavior patterns than unexposed mice.

IMAGE: A sushi platter (Chidorian from Japan, Wikimedia Commons)