It's a simple assumption that those with greater means will be able to live cleaner, healthier lives away from pollution with access to better foods. A new study, however, shows that even the rich are not immune to toxicants that build up in the body.
The study, published in the journal Environment International, shows that harmful chemicals can affect the bodies of everyone, from any socioeconomic background. Researchers at the University of Exeter Medical School looked at data from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to determine this.
Though money was not a factor in the build-up of toxicants in humans, the types of toxicants seen did change with economic status. For example, people with high incomes were found to have more mercury, arsenic, caesium, and thallium in their bodies. The study's authors suggest that diet, specifically the consumption of fish and shellfish could play a role in the build up of such chemicals. The use of sunscreen was also linked to the build-up of benzophenone-3 in people with higher incomes.
"We've found that as people become better off, changes in their lifestyle alter the types of chemicals in their bodies, rather than reducing the overall amount," said Dr. Jessica Tyrrell, the lead author of the study and an epidemiologist at the European Center For Environment & Human Health. "This realisation has a profound impact on the way we treat chemical build ups, suggesting we should move to dealing with groups based on lifestyle, rather than earnings."
Those with lower incomes were found to have more lead, cadmium, antimony, and bisphenol A build-up in their bodies. Tyrrell and her colleagues linked smoking and poor diets to the build-up of cadmium and lead.
"Long term exposure to chemicals, even in very small quantities, can lead to a number of adverse health effects such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease," said Tyrrell. "This study has produced a robust analysis of how the accumulation of these chemicals relates to socioeconomic status, giving us an important understanding that will help to inform strategies aimed at improving health" Dr Tyrrell concludes.