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Toenails Tell Stories

I came across an interesting article today.  Well, it was interesting to me.

I’ve long been criticized and scrutinized when it comes to toenails.  I remember being ‘corrected’ when I was young ‘to not’ trim my toenails in the living room.  My learning experience was most likely punctuated with having to vacuum the carpet right after either mom or dad stepped on one of the stray sharpies.  And I’ve also come to use toenails as a reference when referring to foods I don’t like.   I’m not a fan of coconut.  It’s texture reminds me of, well, toenails.

So when I saw this report out of New Jersey today it caught my attention.  It seems the EPA is trying to determine just how prevalent chromium is in the soil in New Jersey and to find out they are using, toenails.

Seems they can find out a lot about peoples environment and health by their toenails. The Rapid City Journal reported this morning,

Researchers will collect toenail clippings from city residents. The nails will be tested for traces of chromium. Because toenails grow slowly, it is possible to see how much chromium has accumulated in the body over the past 18 months or so, said Judith Zelikoff, a professor of environmental medicine at New York University.

The contamination started 30 years ago, when thousands of pounds of hexavalent chromium— the same stuff that sickened Californians whose story was told in “Erin Brockovich” — leaked from a tank at the EC Electroplating Co., a factory surrounded on all sides by houses and apartments. The state started cleaning up the spill but stopped two years later. In 1993, chromium was found at a now-shuttered firehouse and later in homes.


Officials say the contamination has not affected the city’s drinking water, which is drawn from an outside source. Instead, they worry that people could inhale chromium dust that has been found in basements where groundwater has leached in.

The chromium plume is about three-quarters of a mile wide and slightly more than an eighth-mile long, EPA officials said. The substance has traveled from the site underneath the Passaic River and into the city of Passaic. The agency has installed about 40 monitoring wells to monitor how far the metal has spread.

“We’re trying to find out the extent of the plume,” said Rich Puvogel, a project manager with the EPA.


Who would have thunk?   Toenails.  I guess it makes sense though.  The next time your trimming yours, take a minute to think, ‘hey, if we ran tests on these babies they might tell quite a story.

Oh, and warmer weather is coming and soon we’ll be wearing sandals.  This might serve as a good reminder to clip ’em today.


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