Subscribe to Newsletter
Fields & Applications Environmental

Exploring the Exposome – Part 1: You Are What You Eat

sponsored by Waters

“You are what you eat.” We have all heard this phrase many times – typically directed towards the promotion of a healthy diet. Today, however, the same phrase can be applied to the subject of exogenous compound exposure. Common examples of chemical compounds arising from non-natural sources that we may encounter include pesticides, brominated flame retardants (BFR’s), and per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS).

We live in a complex environment with respect to exposure to these types of materials, yet human exposure was not their intended use or application. Most are intended to improve our quality of life, increase safety, enhance agricultural crop yields, increase food shelf life, and other beneficial effects. But their usage, either environmentally or by direct application onto foods, has resulted in human exposure.

In many cases these compounds become part of our chemical makeup either in a transient (short-lived) manner or stored within our bodies for extended periods of time. In other words, “you are what you’re exposed to!” Their precise effects are controversial – science often does not allow us to infer unequivocally that exposure leads to certain disease states.

Moreover, the future regulatory environment around exogenous compounds is unclear – especially for those that provide a direct safety benefit (for example, flame retardant clothing). Couple this with commercial interests and politics, and you find that the landscape for the science of environmental forensics, medicine, and risk assessment is challenging, rewarding, and critically important.

How are we exposed?

Several organizations, including The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, have estimated that most human exposure to exogenous compounds comes directly through dietary intake. But this does not imply that all exposure is related to agricultural application of the material.

Environmental exposure is a direct route for human uptake, but, even more commonly, environmental exposure of agricultural commodities can lead to plant and/or animal uptake, which is then subsequently passed onto humans through diet. Recent examples of PFAS found in milk highlight this; cows were exposed to PFAS via their environment (sources of drinking water, and so on) and the milk and milk-based products that were produced contain these same compounds.

Since “we are what we eat,” we need a more complete and proactive understanding of the chemical composition in our foods and the relationship these materials have on our health.

For more information on contaminants testing, check out our Food and Beverage Contaminant Testing Application Notebook.

This article is the first in a series of articles from Waters exploring the “exposome” – and the analytical advances improving our understanding of exogenous compound exposure. To find out more, visit our content hub.

Take our survey

Receive content, products, events as well as relevant industry updates from The Analytical Scientist and its sponsors.
Stay up to date with our other newsletters and sponsors information, tailored specifically to the fields you are interested in

When you click “Subscribe” we will email you a link, which you must click to verify the email address above and activate your subscription. If you do not receive this email, please contact us at [email protected].
If you wish to unsubscribe, you can update your preferences at any point.

About the Author
Frank Dorman

Frank Dorman is Senior Principal Market Development Manager, Global Food & Environmental, Waters Corporation, Milford, MA, USA

Register to The Analytical Scientist

Register to access our FREE online portfolio, request the magazine in print and manage your preferences.

You will benefit from:
  • Unlimited access to ALL articles
  • News, interviews & opinions from leading industry experts
  • Receive print (and PDF) copies of The Analytical Scientist magazine