An experiment in Washington state makes headlines today: 10 prominent residents were tested for toxic chemicals to draw attention to the pollution hiding in our everyday lives.

Other investigations of this problem have occured before. In one of the more memorable and disturbing episodes of the PBS show NOW, journalist Bill Moyers was tested for pollutants in his body. In 2004, Sightline tested the breastmilk of 40 Pacific Northwest mothers for toxins. You can read the results and related articles here.

Author and scientist Sandra Steingraber also wrote a fantastic piece about this several years back for my former employer, In These Times magazine, titled “The Myth of Living Safely in a Toxic World.” She thinks it’s futile to try to buy yourself out of a polluted world. Even if your home is completely stocked with groovy, green goods, you still have to take a shower. Your child still has to breathe the air:

“[T]he sooner we quit trying to turn our bodies and homes into fortresses against toxic invasions, the sooner we’ll realize that we have no choice but to rise up and demand an end to the invasion. The hard fact is that we cannot opt out of the water cycle or the food chain. … The way continue the process of detoxification is to stop distracting ourselves with individual sacrifices and get involved with the political struggle. … Ask yourself how other human rights activists you admire once prevailed against formidable opponents—how women won the right to vote, how abolitionists succeeded in divorcing our economy from slave labor, how workers won the right to a weekend. I think you will find depression and cynicism soon yielding to inspiration and courage.”