Everyday Chemicals Could Cause Brain Disorders In Kids, Researchers Say

A new paper reveals startling new information about the chemicals to which children are regularly exposed — in particular, chemicals that could cause brain disorders. The research report, co-authored by Harvard's Philippe Grandjean and Mount Sinai Hospital's Philip J. Landrigan, published in the journal The Lancet Neurology, identifies six toxic industrial chemicals that could be harming children. They are: manganese, fluoride, chlorpyrifos, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, tetrachloroethylene, and polybrominated diphenyl ethers.

That might sound like a mouthful, but it gets scarier. These chemicals have all been linked to developmental abnormalities. Manganese, often found in drinking water, has been linked with a seven-point decrease in IQ scores and impaired motor skills, while the other five chemicals — in particular, solvents — have been linked to aggression and abnormal social development. Additionally, pesticides have been linked to cognitive delays.

This study comes nearly eight years after a 2006 report on potentially toxic chemicals exposed to children, also co-authored by Dr. Grandjean and Dr. Landrigan. Back then, the two identified methylmercury, lead, arsenic, PCBs, toluene, and ethanol as toxic and prevalent chemicals. And with this recent study, the list names 12 oft-found chemicals in total.

"We are very worried that there are a number of other chemicals out there in consumer products that we all contact every day that have the potential to damage the developing brain," Landrigan told CNN, "but have never been safety tested."

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But don't panic just yet — the research study doesn't necessarily mean that these prevalent chemicals are causing more brain disorders. The papers emphasized only the connection between the chemicals and the disorders, and did not find a causal link.

However, the report concluded:

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 international clearinghouse.

Unsurprisingly, chemical-industry representatives weren't happy about the study. In an email to Huffington Post, a rep from the American Chemistry Council wrote:

The authors focus largely on chemicals and heavy metals that are well understood to be inappropriate for children's exposure, highly regulated and/or are restricted or being phased out. They then extrapolate that similar conclusions should be applied to chemicals that are more widely used in consumer products without evidence to support their claims.

Still, the ACC added that the almost 40-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act did need to be updated. "A strong, comprehensive federal chemical assessment and risk management program enhances the safety of all Americans," noted the group in a statement.