Filthy rich or broke? Your body gives clues

All income classes are laden with pollutants, but the folks who eat sushi are ingesting far different chemicals than poorer chain smokers.

By Jason Notte Aug 8, 2013 7:10AM
Image: Woman reading book on sunlounger on vacation © Image Source/Image Source/Getty ImagesAmerica's rich and not so rich are not just living differently, they're poisoning themselves differently as well.

In the U.S., self-polluting isn't typically a class issue. As Quartz points out, the entire population is loaded with chemicals like mercury, arsenic, lead, cadmium and bisphenol A. We eat fish, we drink out of plastic containers, and we generally end up consuming a lot of the same things that make us big, walking dumping grounds.

A new study, however, indicates that it's how we live and consume at the margins that's making the toxins of the top 1% different from those on the lower rungs of the economic ladder. Jessica Tyrrell and colleagues from the University of Exeter, using data from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, found that people who can afford to eat more sushi tend to be teeming with mercury, arsenic, cesium and thallium -- all of which accumulate in fish and shellfish.

The same group can afford to sun itself for weeks at a time along the Cote d'Azur, so it also tends to be chock full of benzophenone-3, aka oxybenzone, which is the active ingredient in most sunscreens. The EU is currently investigating that ingredient, which critics suggest may actually encourage the very skin cancer it's supposed to ward off.

America's poor, meanwhile, are far more likely to smoke and, as a result, tend to build up higher levels of lead and cadmium. The lead found in the paint of the aging U.S. housing stock hasn't helped in this regard. The poor are also far more likely to ingest large amounts of bisphenol-A, a substance used to line the cans and other containers of cheap foods.

Prior to this, common wisdom implied that the rich were more likely to eat fruits and vegetables and avoid energy drinks and fast food than their less wealthy counterparts. While that may still be true, it's the occasional indulgences that are pushing them to deaths that usually come at a far lesser cost.

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Aug 8, 2013 9:43AM
Here in Florida, smoking 2 packs a day costs about $5,000 a year.  Makes you wonder how poor people can afford it.
Aug 8, 2013 9:48AM
In other news....the sun rose this morning.
Aug 8, 2013 11:03AM
This article reminds me: A few years ago when I was doing an internship and living in downtown Harrisburg PA, I frequented this little bar around the corner which, as it turned out, was more popular with Black folks than white guys like me. Mostly I was the only one in there so they had fun with me which was cool.  I don't care I'm sitting there drinking a beer and this Black woman sitting beside me says 'You have rich skin'. I was like....huh? She repeats, 'You have rich looking skin; you must be rich." I started laughing...Rich?? I make $9.00 and hour and live right around the corner in a tiny apartment right here with the rest of you!" (I wasn't from exactly a rich family either!) She just laughed and we had a ball drinking the night away but I had never thought about this sort of thing before I guess. Interesting.
Aug 8, 2013 11:18AM

Food Stamps are one of the most abused and wasteful social program this country has ever developed. A family of four receives more money monthly then my family of five spends a month on food. The amount paid out each month should be cut by at least one third. Purchases by food stamps should be (if not already) restricted to the following: Fresh/frozen non prepared meats & fish, fresh/frozen non prepared vegetables, deli meats/cheeses, canned goods, breads, non sweetened dairy, and non sweetened juices. The following should always be banned, and processes need to be in place where not already, to restrict: Soda, bottled water, power and energy drinks, sweetened juices, coffee, tea, ice cream, candy, energy bars, any pre-prepared meals or sandwiches, snacks/junk food, or any food that is mail ordered or shipped anywhere. If these rules would be followed, and recipients would learn how to shop and properly eat, no one would be hungry and we the taxpayers would save billions.

Aug 8, 2013 11:11AM
FFS I'm so sick and tired of reading this kind of crap.  Everything kills you, gradually, so deal with it.
Aug 8, 2013 9:31AM

.........the reality is much different than this article portraits.......................


There is no doubt that years of eating fast food, hot dogs, fatty hamburger meat, high sodium lunch meats will make you fat, sluggish with early heart issues.


Not smoking, eating qualilty seafood, chicken and low sodium lunch meats along with regular exercise will likely improve your lifestyle while maintaining a healhy weight. I've never met an obese person that truly was happy with themselves both outward and inward!!

Aug 8, 2013 11:56AM
Genes have a lot to do with how your skin looks.  Food can change it to an extent. Being poor does not mean you have to eat like crap. I was poor, lived in a one room flat and had a garden in 4 pots. If that doesn't work for ya, you can buy the salad at MicD;s instead of the meat. You can eat on little money. Just an excuse.
Aug 8, 2013 11:40AM

I feel pretty good about hating sushi.  Thanks for the info.


Aug 8, 2013 10:44AM
Like it or not, LIFE IS LETHAL! 
So what does one do?
answer: prepare now since no one knows when or how it happens to them!
Aug 8, 2013 11:53AM

The additives and growth hormones that are put in the animals food transfer to us too. Look back 50 years ago, you didn't see 9 yr old girls wearing a D-cup bra not like you do now. With the cost of living like it is, people are busier, working two jobs, running kids....parents don't have time to put out a garden or take care of livestock for their own consumption. Fast food places become the normal dinner stop. As life goes on....chasing the almighty dollar will end up killing us all : (


Aug 8, 2013 11:23AM
so why does so many rich people die from drugs or alcohol . as far as fruits and vegetables a lot of people were sick last month from contaminated vegetables from mexico . reports say most of the food we eat  has a high level of contaminates . you can drink gin in a crystal glass or from a plastic bottle it,s still gin.
Aug 8, 2013 12:04PM
Ever notice how there are no Yoga studios in ghettos?
Aug 8, 2013 11:25AM
Most of the food that both the rich and poor consume, comes from a corporate food industry that is run by a few companies. Corporate law puts profit above all other objectives, including the welfare of the people. Many of the farming practices and food processing techniques have been called into question as of late. It would serve any individual to further investigate where their food comes from. 
There are very few people that are willing to actually make real changes in their lives that would represent the critical nature of our circumstances.  

Aug 8, 2013 10:15AM
In a perverse way its funny( not ha ha) your poor so you go out and buy tobacco which is expensive.
Aug 8, 2013 6:33PM

It really depends on how 'filthy rich' or 'broke' are defined..Filthy rich - Do you do what you love to do so much so that your job, which pays 10.00/hr, doesn't feel like work most days?  You may certainly be considered (en) rich (ed).  Are you enslaved by consumer debt even though you are paid 6 figures?  You may certainly be considered broke.  Same with quality of friends and interaction with family...same with personal satisfaction felt when navigating life...same with degree of health.  Rich and poor may often be defined by dollar bills, but I've known many more dollar poor individuals who take pride in an honest days work, have the love of family and friends and live wisely within their means which probably results in a healthier low stress body - in short, very wealthy in ways that count - than dollar rich individuals who couldn't buy that piece of mind no matter how much they are paid.  So, can we all stand back and reassess where we rank in the scale of life?  Although I am very careful with the funds I have, money does not in itself define life's riches. I smoke on occasion and partake in fine seafood on occasion, I don't believe either is due to wealth or lack thereof. I'm also content with life and like many, I suppose I take issue to being placed in a nice neat box because someone performed a study that says I belong in that box.

Aug 8, 2013 11:14AM
Somehow I just don't believe this report on what makes us rich or poor depends on what toxins are in our bodies. I had a successful business. I had 2 trucks and was rapidly getting ready to buy a 3rd truck. I had the big 4 bedroom 2 bath ranch house, the sports car, the minivan, and several antique cars all paid for in cash. I lost all of it in the divorce after my ex decided to poison me. Now with no family and no heir there really is no reason to build up another business since there is nobody to leave anything for and no motivation to have it all again. So I pretty much decided to enjoy what I have, live a simple life and leave nothing of any worth behind when I die again since there is nobody to leave it to. But even with no more drive to build a business I still have the sailboat, reliable transportation and I still live in comfort.

The One....




The sun rose this morning AND it is an astonomical event since today ends in a "Y"



Aug 8, 2013 10:41AM
So rich people should feel better about themselves because they're ingesting poison too? I don't get it. Are you trying to sell me some detox ****?
Aug 8, 2013 5:02PM
How to tell the healthy from the unhealthy (because without health your wealth isn't worth anything)... every evening I see hundreds of people walking, jogging, riding bikes, exercising their pets, having play time with their kids or demonstrating pride of ownership by caring for their home. Those are RICH people. Everybody else is poor.
Aug 8, 2013 12:15PM
Dead is dead.  We're all gonna die.
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