Neurotoxins identified that fry children's brains

Wednesday, March 05, 2014 by: Sharon Heller, PhD
Tags: neurotoxins, children, brain health

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(NaturalNews) We know that neurodevelopmental disabilities among children - such as autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and dyslexia - are on the rise. And, though genetic factors have been identified as a cause, it doesn't take much leap in imagination to believe that neurotoxins also play a role in this increase. According to the National Academy of Sciences, 3 percent of all neurobehavioral disorders in children are caused by toxic exposures in the environment and another 25 percent by interactions between environmental factors and genetics. But the precise environmental causes are not yet known.

Study confirms link between toxins and neurodevelopmental disabilities

Now a new study from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, published in Lancet Neurology confirms that toxic chemicals may be triggering the recent increase. Writes Philippe Grandjean, adjunct professor of environmental health at HSPH,
"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. They suffer reduced attention span, delayed development, and poor school performance. Industrial chemicals are now emerging as likely causes."

In 2006, the same authors conducted a similar review that identified five industrial chemicals linked to brain deficits. The new study reveals updated findings about those chemicals and adds information on six newly recognized ones, including manganese, fluoride, chlorpyrifos and DDT (pesticides), tetrachloroethylene (a solvent), and the polybrominated diphenyl ethers (flame retardants).

How neurotoxins link to neurodevelopmental disabilities

The study outlines possible links between these newly recognized neurotoxicants and deleterious effects on children, including:

Manganese and diminished intellectual function and impaired motor skills
Solvents and hyperactivity and aggressive behavior
Certain types of pesticides and cognitive delays

And though eleven chemicals have been identified, Grandjean and co-author Philip Landrigan, Dean for Global Health at Mount Sinai, predict a list of many more chemicals identified as neurotoxicants that diminish intelligence, disrupt behaviors, and damage societies.

Government regulations stifle action

Controlling this "silent pandemic" will be difficult because of the difficulty of needing much data and a huge amount of proof for government regulation. "Very few chemicals have been regulated as a result of developmental neurotoxicity," they write.

Global initiative needed

To protect children's brain development, the authors urge a new global prevention strategy to control the use of these substances. They propose mandatory testing of industrial chemicals and the formation of a new international clearinghouse to evaluate industrial chemicals for potential developmental neurotoxicity. Says Grandjean, "We have the methods in place to test industrial chemicals for harmful effects on children's brain development -- now is the time to make that testing mandatory."

Sources for this article include

Philippe Grandjean, Philip Landrigan. Neurobehavioural effects of developmental toxicity. Lancet Neurology, February 2014 DOI: 10.1016/S1474-4422(13)70278-3 Philip Landrigan, Luca Lambertini, Linda Birnbaum.

A Research Strategy to Discover the Environmental Causes of Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disabilities. Environmental Health Perspectives, 2012; DOI: 10.1289/ehp.1104285

About the author:
Sharon Heller, PhD is a developmental psychologist who specializes in books on holistic solutions for anxiety, panic and sensory processing disorder (SPD). She is the author of several popular psychology books including "Uptight & Off Center: How sensory processing disorder throws adults off balance & how to create stability" (Symmetry, 2013), "Anxiety: Hidden Causes, Why your anxiety may not be 'all in your head' but from something physical" (Symmetry, 2011) and "Too Loud, Too Bright, Too Fast, Too Tight, What to do if you are sensory defensive in an overstimulating world" (HarperCollins, 2002). She can be contacted via email at and via her website, You can also follow her blog at

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