A new meta-study co-authored by Harvard School of Public Health, Mount Sinai medical school, and the University of Southern Denmark, concluded that industrial chemicals are directly responsible for the skyrocketing neurodevelopmental disabilities in children, such as autism, dyslexia, ADHD, and other cognitive impairments. The researchers note that although genetics do play a role, it can only account for 30-40% of the cases. Furthermore, the exponential rise of these disorders in recent decades can be more accurately attributed to explosion of neurotoxins in our environment.
In 2006, 201 more neurotoxins were added to the list of well-known neurotoxins like lead and arsenic. Since then, new studies have shown incontrovertibly that our children are being directly affected by so many unregulated chemicals in our lives. These include: manganese (though an essential mineral, overexposure through drinking water can impair cognitive development in children), fluoride, BPA, phthalates, solvents (used in hospitals, chem labs, beauty salons, dry cleaners), pesticides, and even air pollution through high levels of carbon monoxide.
1. Fluoride: A meta-analysis of 27 studies (mostly from China) shows that increased fluoride exposure translates to 7 point decrease in IQ. To give perspective, one standard deviation of IQ is defined as 15 points–so 7 point decrease is considerable effect. As if that’s not enough–each lowered IQ point means $18,000 lost in lifetime earnings.
2. Solvents: In a French study of 300 children, maternal occupational solvent exposure during pregnancy was linked to behavioral deficits in children as young as 2 years of age. A Massachusetts study found that early childhood exposure to solvents was linked to cognitive deficits.
3. Phthalates: Found in many plastics and cosmetics, this endocrine disruptor also affects neurological function in young children, particularly boys. Phthalates exposure has also been linked to behaviors on the autism spectrum.
4. BPA: Also found in many plastics and especially canned foods, exposure to Bisphenol-A is linked to behavioral and executive impairments in children as young as 3.
5. Air pollution: carbon monoxide-heavy air increases risk of autism-spectrum disorders.
The study concludes that new regulations and legislation requiring testing are urgently needed. The incontrovertible fact is that the government and the market are not doing enough to protect our health–and particularly the health of women and young children. Make sure to do the following to protect yourself–and your family.
1. Always buy organic: it should be a priority for everyone, not just the affluent. If you can’t always afford organic produce, choose fruits and veggies that have thick peels, and wash and scrub them well.
2. Go chemical-free: eliminate conventional makeup, nail polish, and skincare products from your vanity. Switch to all natural cleaning products, or make your own lemon-and-baking soda sprays. Look at the label to make sure it’s biodegradable, cruelty-free, and doesn’t contain harmful plasticizers and chemicals.
3. Reduce dry cleaning: Limit the amount of dry cleaning, and choose “organic” cleaners when you do.
What are some of your favorite “clean living” tips?
Photo: Argonne National Laboratory; colorblindpicasso via flickr