Over the years, the list of harmful chemicals that can negatively affect the brain development in children has significantly grown. According to a study from The Lancet Neurology, there are new chemicals emerging that may be contributing to what researchers call the “global, silent pandemic of neurodevelopmental toxicity”.
Back in 2006, the research team released a list of five neurotoxins that may be contributing factors to everything from attention problems to cognitive deficits. Based on new research, that list has expanded to six more chemicals linked to developmental disorders in children. Read on to know what they are.
One of the most thoroughly researched compounds when it comes to neurodevelopment, lead has been consistently linked to various mental deficits including low IQ. Studies have found that the effects of lead seem to be permanent, leading the researchers to conclude that there is no safe level of exposure to lead.
This chemical affects the neurological development of the fetus. According to the World Health Organization and EPA, children are often exposed to methylmercury through maternal intake of fish containing high levels of mercury.
7) Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB)
Often present in fish and can be passed along in breast milk, polychlorinated biphenyls has frequently been linked to reduced cognitive function in infancy and childhood.
Typically linked to reduced cognitive function in schoolchildren, arsenic can be absorbed through drinking water. Based on studies from the Morinaga milk poisoning incident, arsenic has also been associated with neurological disease in adulthood.
Commonly used as a solvent and acquirable through maternal exposure, toluene has been linked to attention deficit and brain development problems in the child.
In an incident involving Bangladesh’s drinking water, for example, manganese has been associated ADHD, diminished intellectual function and decreased scores in math.
Studies have shown that high levels of fluoride has been linked to a 7-point decrease in IQ in children.
2) Chlorpyrifos and DDT (pesticides)
Banned in many parts of the world (but still used in many lower-income countries), Chlorpyrifos and DDT have been linked to neurodevelopmental problems and structural abnormalities of the brain. Recent studies have also linked these chemicals to Alzheimer’s disease as well.
1) Tetrachloroethylene (also known as perchlorethylene)
Usually used as solvents, this chemical has been linked to aggressive behavior, hyperactivity and increased risk of psychiatric diagnosis. Mothers involved in professional roles like hairdresser, beautician, cleaner, chemist and nurse have a higher risk of exposure.
Flame retardants polybrominateddiphenyl ethers, believed to be neurotoxins, have been banned for some time now. Studies have shown that prenatal exposure to this chemical have been associated with neurodevelopmental disorders in the child.
Two more chemicals that are of concern are phthalate, a chemical commonly found in cosmetics and bisphenol A (BPA), a common plastics additive.
Phthalates, usually found in personal products like hair spray and nail polish, have consistently been linked to impaired social interactions and shortened attention span in children.
The human brain is extremely susceptible to chemical exposure, both in utero and in early childhood. Even low levels of exposure that would have little to no adverse effect in adults can cause permanent brain injury in children.
Steering clear way from these chemicals can be challenging as they are ubiquitous and can be found in cosmetics, food, receipt papers and even containers. A good start in avoiding these harmful products is by reading the labels of ingredient lists of the products you buy. You can check out the Environmental Working Group’s website for more information about this.