Harvard Researchers Warn of Chemicals Linked to Brain Disorders in Children

A growing number of toxic chemicals have been linked with brain disorders in children, according to researchers at Harvard School of Public Health. In a recent report published the journal Lancet Neurology, researchers expand on a previous 2006 report by adding six new chemicals of concern to a list of five existing chemicals. They added manganese, fluoride, chlorpyrifos, DDT pesticide, tetrachloroethylene (a solvent), and flame retardants to a list that included lead, methylmercury, PCBs, arsenic, and toluene.

The authors call for a global prevention strategy to control the “pandemic of developmental neurotoxicity.” Here, here! They recommend that an international clearinghouse of neurotoxicity be developed:

“The main purpose of this agency would be to promote optimum brain health, not just avoidance of neurological disease, by inspiring, facilitating, and coordinating research and public policies that aim to protect brain development during the most sensitive life stages. The main efforts would aim to:

  • Screen industrial chemicals present in human exposures for neurotoxic effects so that hazardous substances can be identified for tighter control.
  • Stimulate and coordinate new research and understanding how toxic chemicals interfere with brain development and how to best prevent long-term dysfunctions and deficits.
  • Function as a clearinghouse for research data and strategies by gathering and assessing documentation about brain toxicity and stimulating international collaboration on research and prevention.
  • Promote policy development aimed at protecting vulnerable populations against chemicals that are toxic to the brain without needing unrealistic amounts of scientific proof.”

I absolutely applaud the effort of these researchers, who are doing more than simply talking about the need for more regulation. They recognize that our current system is antiquated and the assumption that new chemicals and technologies are safe until proven otherwise is downright dangerous. They have a solid plan and I hope to see this clearinghouse come to be. For the sake of our children, who are exposed to so many chemicals without any protection, I am optimistic that this effort will move forward. With funding from the National Institutes of Health, it sure shows promise.

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