Toxic chemicals may be triggering the recent increases in
neurodevelopmental disabilities among children—such
as autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity
disorder, and dyslexia—according to a new study from Harvard School
of Public Health (HSPH) and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount
Sinai. The researchers call for a new global prevention strategy to
control the use of these substances: methylmercury, polychlorinated
biphenyls, arsenic, toluene, lead, manganese, fluoride,
chlorpyrifos, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, tetrachloroethylene
(or perc, used in dry cleaning), and the polybrominated diphenyl
The study outlines possible links between these newly recognized
neurotoxicants and negative health effects on children, such
Manganese is associated with diminished intellectual function
and impaired motor skills
Solvents like toluene are linked to hyperactivity and
Certain types of pesticides may cause cognitive delays.
If this research stands up to further examination, the federal
government may need to do something to reduce infants' exposure
to these chemicals. For a start, it's another reason to never
hang freshly dry cleaned clothes in a bedroom or anywhere near
children, at least if the dry cleaner still uses perc. And to
quickly change any remaining drinking water pipes that are made or
soldered with lead. Avoiding fluoride, which is added to toothpaste
and to drinking water. is more of a challenge. Will this study stir
up again opposition to fluoridating water?
The report was published online
February 15, 2014 in Lancet Neurology. Its
"Neurodevelopmental disabilities, including autism,
attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia, and other
cognitive impairments, affect millions of children worldwide, and
some diagnoses seem to be increasing in frequency. Industrial
chemicals that injure the developing brain are among the known
causes for this rise in prevalence. In 2006, we did a systematic
review and identified five industrial chemicals as developmental
neurotoxicants: lead, methylmercury, polychlorinated biphenyls,
arsenic, and toluene. Since 2006, epidemiological studies have
documented six additional developmental
neurotoxicants—manganese, fluoride, chlorpyrifos,
dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, tetrachloroethylene, and the
polybrominated diphenyl ethers. We postulate that even more
neurotoxicants remain undiscovered. To control the pandemic of
developmental neurotoxicity, we propose a global prevention
strategy. Untested chemicals should not be presumed to be safe to
brain development, and chemicals in existing use and all new
chemicals must therefore be tested for developmental neurotoxicity.
To coordinate these efforts and to accelerate translation of
science into prevention, we propose the urgent formation of a new
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