As the list of dangerous industrial chemicals continues to grow, scientists are finding more evidence regarding the dangers that continued exposure to high concentrations of these chemicals pose to the mental development of children.
The two scientists who authored the study include Harvard School of Public Health professor Philippe Grandjean and Mount Sinai School of Medicine dean and professor Dr. Philip Landrigan. The pair published their findings in the online journal The Lancet Neurology.
"Neurodevelopmental disabilities, including autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia, and other cognitive impairments, affect millions of children worldwide, and some diagnoses seem to be increasing in frequency," said Grandjean and Landrigan. "Industrial chemicals that injure the developing brain are among the known causes for this rise in prevalence."
Grandjean is also concerned about the advent of a "silent pandemic" involving "chemical brain drain." The problem is that many children are exposed to these dangerous chemicals on a daily basis. In fact, these "chemical brain drain" agents can often be found in most homes.
An older study conducted by Grandjean and Landrigan back in 2006 outlined a number of chemicals that were dangerous for pregnant women and young children. These chemicals include lead, methylmercury, polychlorinated biphenyls, arsenic, and toluene. The researchers described these five chemicals as neurotoxicants.
Grandjean and Landrigan continued studying other common industrial chemicals and the pair has added six other chemicals to the growing list. The new additions include manganese, fluoride, chlorpyrifos, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, tetrachloroethylene, and the polybrominated diphenyl ethers.
Tetrachloroethylene is quite common and is often used to degrease metal. It is also used in the dry cleaning industry. Polybrominated diphenyl ethers are also commonplace since they are used in a wide variety of consumer products such as electronics and household furniture. Most alarmingly, Polybrominated diphenyl ethers are also used in the manufacturing of children's clothing.
"To control the pandemic of developmental neurotoxicity, we propose a global prevention strategy," said Grandjean and Landrigan. "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."
While medical professionals are keeping an eye on the study, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) has also weighed in on the findings published by Grandjean and Landrigan. The ACC has criticized the study as "flawed" saying that the researchers failed to take into consideration both potency and exposure.
"What is most concerning is that the authors focus largely on chemicals and heavy metals that are well understood to be inappropriate for children's exposure, are highly regulated and/or are restricted or being phased out," said the ACC in a press release. "They then extrapolate that similar conclusions should be applied to chemicals that are more widely used in consumer products without evidence to support their claims. Such assertions do nothing to advance true scientific understanding and only create confusion and alarm."
While the debate regarding the matter continues to rage, both sides agree that the government needs to amend the outdated Toxic Control Act. Moreover, pregnant women and parents of young children are urged to keep their families away from strong industrial chemicals.