To determine how many toxins are contained in the human body, researchers from the Virginia Tech College of Engineering have developed a test that uses a microelectromechanical system to single out the toxins in our breath. The test is designed to identify the toxins in our atmosphere and the extent to which they pose a risk to our biochemical system.
While a person's breath has long been used to determine health, systems of measurement today are more sophisticated because they can pick up infinitely smaller traces of toxins. As the researchers report in their study, published in Environmental Science and Technology, they asked study participants to breathe into sterile plastic, then processed the exhaled air through small sorption devices no larger than a penny. Researchers then analyzed the contents for levels of toxins.
The testing comes with some risk -- namely that researchers don't yet have a sense of what "normal" breath should be like. But researchers feel that testing one's breath is useful because the breath "presents a composite of all doses, providing information about exogenous compounds absorbed from the surroundings, as well as changes in endogenous compounds which may result from such exposures." The researchers in particular are focused on how emissions from everyday locations, such as carpeting in the home or paint in the workplace, can affect us. They anticipate that depending upon where one lives, the toxins in one's breath may be different. The ultimate goal is to first identify the risk, then identify ways that people's exposure to these toxins can be limited.
The breath test could ultimately be helpful for preventing birth defects. There is much evidence linking toxins from common household items to a higher rate of birth defects. Whether the cause comes from household cleaning products that we use on a regular basis, or from toxic emissions from flame-retardant materials in our home or office, every day, the connection between environmental toxins and birth defects becomes clearer. If you believe that your child's birth defect was caused by environmental toxins, you might consider filing a toxic tort lawsuit. First, you would need to determine which source was most responsible -- household products or outdoor smog, or both? If there is strong evidence that one or more specific sources is responsible, you could file a lawsuit naming these offenders as defendants. You would then argue that the offenders owed you (and everyone else in the community) a duty of general care to act responsibly, which means following applicable environmental regulations. The offender breached this duty by acting carelessly; the breach caused your injury (exposure to the toxins while your child was in utero), and your damage was your child's birth defect. If there are enough people in your situation who have children with the same or similar birth defects, you could form a class action lawsuit.