A Tool That Can Estimate Total Toxin Exposure

Mount Sinai has developed a calculator that can be used as a metric to estimate our toxin exposure. Between toxins in personal care products, cleaning products, food, soil, plastics, medications, and water, we can be exposed to thousands of harmful chemicals in our daily lives – all of which can impact our health by way of liver damage, high cholesterol, thyroid issues, and hormone imbalances, to name a few.

This is the first time scientists were able to create a “burden calculator” which accounts for the patterns of exposure to a variety of the many chemicals we are exposed to, which fall into a class of chemicals known as PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances). There are over 5,000 chemicals in the PFAS chemical class.

PFAS contain fluorine-carbon bonds, which repel oil and water, making them more functional in our cookware (think: nonstick pans), beauty products, and food packages. These chemicals do not break down in the earth or our bodies but instead build up in our environment and our bodies, specifically our blood, kidneys, and liver. In fact, according to the CDC, in 2007 PFAS was found in 98% of Americans.

Mount Sinai used biomonitoring data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to create the metric for toxic burden. They used serum concentrations from eight PFAS in adults and children. They combined these core biomarker concentrations with the participants’ larger “exposure pattern” (meaning to all other PFAS), and by doing so, they could make cumulative estimates.

This method can be duplicated by other researchers, as the burden calculator is available online for researchers to enter their data into. Additionally, the calculator offers a way to include specific exposures that usually have “low detection frequencies.” Moreover, this tool helps researchers see across different populations and demographics to examine any similarities or differences in toxin exposure among certain groups of people. It can also help draw connections to specific health outcomes to see which ones – heart disease, hormone imbalance, compromised immunity – might be correlated with specific PFAS.

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