Study Links Chemicals to ADHD and Autism

Even Harvard now agrees

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Parents, educators, health care professionals, and others are perplexed by the incredible increase in cases of ADHD and autism. A new study performed by Harvard University suggests that toxic chemicals may be to blame. Furthermore, the researchers say the implementation of a global prevention strategy to control the use of toxic substances is urgently needed.

“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,” said Philippe Grandjean, adjunct professor of environmental health at Harvard School of Public Health.

Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai performed research in 2006 that identified five industrial chemicals as “developmental neurotoxicants.” Developmental neurotoxicants are chemicals that can cause brain deficits. Their latest study updates their previous findings about those chemicals and adds six newly recognized neurotoxicants:

1. Manganese (metal — intellectual function impairment and impaired motor skills)
2. Fluoride (found in toothpaste — decreased IQ)
3. Chlorpyrifos (pesticide — possible cognitive delays)
4. DDT (pesticide — possible cognitive delays)
5. Tetrachloroethylene (solvent — associated with aggressive and hyperactive behaviors)
6. Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (flame retardants often found in clothing and bedding)

Co-author, Dr. Philip Landrigan, Dean for Global Health at Mount Sinai, also predicts that many more chemicals will be identified as neurotoxicants in the future. The authors believe these chemicals are part of a “silent pandemic” of neurobehavioral deficits that cause disruptive behaviors, autism, and damage societies as a whole.

The authors propose the formation of a new international watchdog organization to provide mandatory testing of industrial chemicals to evaluate their potential developmental neurotoxicity.

“Very few chemicals have been regulated as a result of developmental neurotoxicity,” they write.

“The problem is international in scope, and the solution must therefore also be international,” said Grandjean, lead study author. “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.”