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Industrial Chemicals May Be Tied to Pediatric Brain Disorders, Autism and ADHD

Feb 17, 2014

Industrial chemicals are being blamed on brain disorders, specifically pediatric disorders, including autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, which is popularly known as ADHD.

According to two renowned researchers, “global restrictions” are being urged for industrial chemicals to stem what the researchers describe as “a global, silent pandemic” of brain disorders, which includes ADHD and autism, wrote The Toronto Star. “Our very great concern is that children worldwide are being exposed to unrecognized toxic chemicals that are silently eroding intelligence, disrupting behaviors, truncating future achievements, and damaging societies,” the scientists wrote in a review published in The Lancet Neurology.

“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,” the authors concluded.

Co-author Dr. Philippe Grandjean reiterated that developing brains—from the womb and during childhood—are more susceptible and vulnerable to dangerous toxins than adult brains, according to The Toronto Star. Dr. Grandjean, who is a professor at the University of Southern Denmark and who teaches at the Harvard School of Public Health, pointed out that today’s regulations are “woefully inadequate” in how they protect children from ongoing exposure to contaminants found in common, everyday items to which they are exposed and in the air that they breathe.

Dr. Grandjean and co-author, Dr. Philip Landrigan, dean of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, seek the international clearing house to manage testing of all existing and new compounds. The researchers state that the onus on proving a chemical low-risk prior to use in the market should be on manufacturers. This, say the researchers, must be the process going forward and not what they said is a reliance on the “dangerous presumption” that new chemicals are safe until they are proven unsafe, The Toronto Star reported.

The researchers also included dyslexia and other cognitive impairments in its list of neurodevelopmental disabilities, according to The Lancet, noting that neurodevelopmental disabilities impact millions of children worldwide, with some diagnoses on the rise. The researchers pointed out that industrial chemicals are among the known causes for the increase. In fact, the researchers indicated that they conducted a systematic review in 2006 and identified five developmental neurotoxicants: Lead, methylmercury, polychlorinated biphenyls, arsenic, and toluene. Since, their research also identified manganese, fluoride, chlorpyrifos, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, tetrachloroethylene, and polybrominated diphenyl ethers. The researchers believe even more neurotoxicants remain in use but have not yet been discovered.

Manganese has been tied to minimized intellectual function and impaired motor skills, solvents have been associated with hyperactivity and aggressive behavior, and some pesticides might be linked to cognitive delays, according to the researchers, wrote UPI. "The greatest concern is the large numbers of children who are affected by toxic damage to brain development in the absence of a formal diagnosis," Grandjean said. "They suffer reduced attention span, delayed development, and poor school performance. Industrial chemicals are now emerging as likely causes."

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