When it comes to your children, their safety is of paramount importance. But could their own everyday environment be putting their minds in serious risk?
According to a new report published in The Lancet, the answer is yes. That’s because toxic chemicals are running rampant in America today, with homes and consumer products across the nation contributing to a “silent epidemic” of brain dysfunction in children.
Though genetics are understood to play a part in neurological issues, especially at a young age, only 30 to 40 percent of neurodevelopmental disorders can be definitively connected to family history.
“There are a lot of chemicals out there that have been shown to have the capability to injure the developing brain,” admits study co-author Philip Landrigan, MD, professor and chair of the department of community and preventive medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, whose further qualifications include one of the world’s premier voices on children’s environmental health. “And we’re very concerned that a number of chemicals in everyday products have never been properly tested to determine whether they’re toxic to the human brain.”
PBDEs and Pesticides Put Our Kids at Risk
In the U.S., Landrigan says that the most important recently-seen chemicals to avoid are polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), flame retardants implemented to plastics, cars, certain kinds of furniture, and pesticides. PBDEs have long been associated with thyroid problems and learning difficulties, and Dr. Landrigan believes they’re similarly structured to now-illegal PCBs.
Fortunately, PBDE levels in pregnant women are expected to fall, because California recently overturned its law that called for all furniture to be chemically-treated so it could be flame-resistant. The law was essentially a national standard because of California’s size, so the majority of furniture manufacturers have used PBDEs in furniture foam since. “When you compare California to the rest of the U.S., the levels of PBDEs in Californians were several times higher and that’s all because of this law that had been pushed through requiring very high levels of brominated flame retardants,” Landrigan continues. “Women were exposed day in and day out in their homes.”
Pesticides such as DDT have already been banned for years, with many pesticides in the same class, organochlorines, being greatly restricted. And while similar pesticides, organophosphates, are eliminated from the body significantly faster, recent evidence indicates that mothers-to-be exposed to them bear children with a smaller head circumference– a dire indication of slow brain growth– as well as children with neurological problems by age seven.
Dr. Landrigan continues by saying he’s also worried about phthalates and bisphenol A, two chemicals that are everywhere in consumer products like plastics and synthetic fragrances as well as people themselves. The body of evidence for both chemicals isn’t as powerful as six other harmful ones he’s personally studied, but “evidence is rapidly accumulating that those chemicals are toxic to the developing brain,” Dr. Landrigan concludes.
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