Scientists have just announced that in our tests for chemical safety, we’ve been overlooking a critical pathway for entry into the body. The usual tests look at how well chemicals travel in water and fat: A chemical that is highly water-soluble was thought to pose a lower risk for building up in the food chain. But a lot of the animals we’re concerned about — including us — also breath air, and that’s a pathway that no one has looked at before. Researchers at Simon Fraser University tested 12,000 chemicals currently being reviewed by the Canadian government, and found that as many as a third of them might accumulate in the tissues of air-breathing animals. “About one third of all the commercial chemicals that are in use right now belong in this group of chemicals that are potentially biomagnifying,” said Frank Gobas, one of the researchers. He says that adds up to three or four thousand compounds in Canada, which is low compared to what is in use in the U.S. and the E.U.
Source: David Biello, Out of Thin Air: New Test Reveals Thousands More Potentially Dangerous Chemicals. Scientific American, July 12. Photo: Bald eagles became one of the best-known examples of biomagnification when eggshell thinning from DDT helped bring them close to extinction.