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Wealthy people have different types of chemical pollutants in their systems

A leading toxicology expert at the University of Exeter Medical School is reporting that wealthy people do not experience the same effects of pollution as poor people, and that their bodies are polluted by very different chemicals. Professor Michael Depledge explains, for example, that wealthier people may have higher levels of pesticides in their bodies from spending more time on the golf course.

While briefing MPs on the UK Environmental Audit Committee, the professor also reported that wealthy people are likely to have more mercury in their systems because they eat a lot of seafood. Poor people, on the other hand, are exposed to toxic chemicals from living nearer to landfill sites.

Professor Depledge told the MPs that he expected “huge resistance” from the chemical industry regarding his concerns. He said that his research may help scientists “get a handle” on the chemical pollutants that different groups in society face.

Across the UK, golf courses have been under more scrutiny and have faced stricter legislation to reduce the use of harmful pesticides. For example, a pesticide used to kill leatherjackets known as chlorpyrifos has been banned in the UK.

Professor Depledge is a member of the Hazardous Substances Advisory Committee (HSAC), a team of experts who spoke at the first session of the UK Environmental Audit Committee’s inquiry into toxic chemicals in everyday life. The HSAC scientists said they are shocked by the rate of new chemicals appearing on the market.

“One of the challenges is to try to define a chemical environment that we would find acceptable to live in. And once we have done that we need to develop policies that would take us to that place,” said Professor Depledge. “At the moment it is firefighting. Each chemical that comes along – probably there are about 2,000 new chemicals a year coming along – we try to make regulations for them. We can’t get through them all.”

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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