Toxic Chemicals List Grows and Affects Children

Toxic ChemicalsA new study reveals that the list of toxic chemicals continues to grow and that it severely affects children’s brains. A team of researchers had released a first list of five toxic chemicals in 2006. All chemicals were linked to pediatric brain disorders, including hyperactivity disorder, autism, behavioral problems and dyslexia.

The researchers have now released an updated list with toxic chemicals that have been identified during a study that was performed in the past seven years. Six new chemicals were added to the list, meaning there are now 11 chemicals that are known to be harmful for the children’s brain. Philip Landrigan, pediatrician and chairman at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, was part of the new study and says toxic chemicals are becoming a silent pandemic, causing serious problems for the future of young children. “The children’s brain is very sensitive and injury may lead to severe problems, such as a lower IQ or behavioral problems. The worst thing is that brain injuries with children are permanent and can even occur while the child is in the uterus. It may not only result into poor school performance, but also in severe social problems.”

Landrigan, together with his colleague Philipe Grandjean, looked into hundreds of investigations and previous studies and performed tests to find the six toxic chemicals that affect the children’s brain, but they expect the list will continue to grow in the future. Apart from the six toxic chemicals that were identified, the team has also added 12 chemicals to a list of suspected toxic chemicals. This list has 214 chemicals and all of them are planned to be tested by the researchers. According to the team, there are roughly 80,000 chemicals in the U.S. that have never been tested for safety.

The European Union has strict laws for chemical control. As a result, products with toxic chemicals, such as cosmetics, are forwarded to countries with weak laws. Landrigan and Grandjean say the testing methods exist, but that toxic chemicals cannot be banned without changing laws. “Chemicals may be listed as harmful and be banned, but it will not take long before the industry replaces it with a new chemical that might be just as toxic as the previous one,” the researchers explain. Landrigan and Grandjean do not believe regulating chemicals in the U.S. will improve the situation. The authors of the study propose that chemicals are regulated on a worldwide level, ensuring that countries with weak laws for chemical control will not be affected.

Brain disorders in children are only 30 to 40 percent caused by genes. Therefore, the researchers are certain that the rest of children’s brain disorders must be caused by external factors, such as toxic chemicals. The toxic chemicals that are on the list can be found in everyday products, such as cosmetics, baby bottles, mattresses, receipt papers, toys and foods. The list was released on February 15 and the study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences. As the list of toxic chemicals grows, the researchers will continue to test other chemicals to discover if and how it affects children.

By Diana Herst

Voice of America
Harvard Gazette

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