Report: A host of common chemicals endanger child brain development. eurekalert.org.
July 01, 2016. In a new report, dozens of scientists, health practitioners and children's health advocates are calling for renewed attention to the growing evidence that many common and widely available chemicals endanger neurodevelopment in fetuses and children of all ages. The chemicals that are of most concern include lead and mercury; organophosphate pesticides used in agriculture and home gardens; phthalates, found in pharmaceuticals, plastics and personal care products; flame retardants known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers; and air pollutants produced by the combustion of wood and fossil fuels, said University of Illinois comparative biosciences professor Susan Schantz, one of dozens of individual signatories to the consensus statement.
IMAGE: IN ADDITION TO MERCURY AND LEAD, FLAME RETARDANTS, AIR POLLUTANTS AND CHEMICALS FOUND IN MANY PLASTICS, COSMETICS AND FOOD CONTAINERS ENDANGER CHILD BRAIN HEALTH, RESEARCHERS SAY. view more
CREDIT: GRAPHIC BY JULIE MCMAHON
Polychlorinated biphenyls, once used as coolants and lubricants in transformers and other electrical equipment, also are of concern. PCBs were banned in the U.S. in 1977, but can persist in the environment for decades, she said.
The new report, "Project TENDR: Targeting Environmental NeuroDevelopment Risks," appears in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
"These chemicals are pervasive, not only in air and water, but in everyday consumer products that we use on our bodies and in our homes," Schantz said. "Reducing exposures to toxic chemicals can be done, and is urgently needed to protect today's and tomorrow's children."
Schantz is a faculty member in the College of Veterinary Medicine and in the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the U. of I. See a video about her work and the Project TENDR initiative.
"The human brain develops over a very long period of time, starting in gestation and continuing during childhood and even into early adulthood," Schantz said. "But the biggest amount of growth occurs during prenatal development. The neurons are forming and migrating and maturing and differentiating. And if you disrupt this process, you're likely to have permanent effects."
Some of the chemicals of concern, such as phthalates and PBDEs, are known to interfere with normal hormone activity. For example, most pregnant women in the U.S. will test positive for exposure to phthalates and PBDEs, both of which disrupt thyroid hormone function.
"Thyroid hormone is involved in almost every aspect of brain development, from formation of the neurons to cell division, to the proper migration of cells and myelination of the axons after the cells are differentiated," said Schantz. "It regulates many of the genes involved in nervous system development."
Schantz and her colleagues at Illinois are studying infants and their mothers to determine whether prenatal exposure to phthalates and other endocrine disruptors leads to changes in the brain or behavior. This research, along with parallel studies in older children and animals, is a primary focus of the Children's Environmental Health Research Center at Illinois, which Schantz directs.
Phthalates also interfere with steroid hormone activity. Studies link exposure to certain phthalates with attention deficits, lower IQ and conduct disorders in children. "Phthalates are everywhere; they're in all kinds of different products. We're exposed to them every day," Schantz said.
The report criticizes current regulatory lapses that allow chemicals to be introduced into people's lives with little or no review of their effects on fetal and child health.
"For most chemicals, we have no idea what they're doing to children's neurodevelopment," Schantz said. "They just haven't been studied.
"And if it looks like something is a risk, we feel policymakers should be willing to make a decision that this or that chemical could be a bad actor and we need to stop its production or limit its use," she said. "We shouldn't have to wait 10 or 15 years -- allowing countless children to be exposed to it in the meantime -- until we're positive it's a bad actor."
The paper "Project TENDR: Targeting Environmental NeuroDevelopment Risks" is available from the U. of I. News Bureau.
Read also related: Scientists, physicians and advocates agree: Environmental toxins hurt brain development
. July 01, 2016. An unprecedented alliance of leading scientists, health professionals, and children's and environmental health advocates agree for the first time that today's scientific evidence supports a link between exposures to toxic chemicals in air, water, food and everyday products and children's risks for neurodevelopmental disorders.
MAGE: THIS IS A GRAPHIC HIGHLIGHTING THE PERCENTAGE OF PREGNANT WOMEN WITH DETECTABLE CHEMICALS IN THEIR BODIES. view more
CREDIT: PROJECT TENDR
In a consensus statement published today in Environmental Health Perspectives, the alliance, known as Project TENDR (Targeting Environmental Neuro-Developmental Risks), calls for immediate action to significantly reduce exposures to toxic chemicals and protect brain development now and for generations to come.
Neurodevelopmental disorders include intellectual disability, autism spectrum disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and learning and other disabilities.
The chemicals and pollutants highlighted in the consensus statement as contributing to children's learning, intellectual and behavioral impairments are:
* Organophosphate (OP) pesticides
* Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) used as flame retardants
* Combustion-related air pollutants, which include polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter
* Lead, with primary sources of water pipes and paint
* Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), industrial chemicals that were commonly used in electrical equipment and now pollute landfills and water
More information on each of these compounds and how families can protect themselves from them is on the Project TENDR website: http://projecttendr.com
"This is truly a historic agreement," said Irva Hertz-Picciotto, co-director of Project TENDR and professor of public health sciences at UC Davis and the UC Davis MIND Institute. "Ten years ago, this consensus wouldn't have been possible, but the scientific research is now abundantly clear: toxic chemicals are harming our children's brain development. As a society, we can eliminate or significantly lower these toxic chemical exposures and address inadequate regulatory systems that have allowed their proliferation. These steps can, in turn, reduce high rates of neurodevelopmental disorders."
Maureen Swanson, leader of the Healthy Children Project of the Learning Disabilities Association of America and co-director of Project TENDR, added that broad-based collaboration was necessary to highlight the amount of evidence that is available on toxins and brain health.
"This national problem is so pressing that the TENDR scientists and health professionals will continue their collaboration to develop and issue recommendations aimed at significantly reducing exposures to toxic chemicals that are harming children's brain development," Swanson said. "Calling for further study is no longer a sufficient response to this threat."
The Project TENDR consensus statement is available online at http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/EHP358/
Project TENDR is an alliance of 48 of the nation's top scientists, health professionals and health advocates. It was launched by Maureen Swanson of the Learning Disabilities Association of America and Irva Hertz-Picciotto of UC Davis, who brought together participants across many disciplines and sectors, including epidemiology, toxicology, exposure science, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, nursing, public health, and federal and state chemical policy. Medical and scientific societies that have signed on in support include the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Nurses Association, Endocrine Society, National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, National Medical Association, National Hispanic Medical Association, Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, Physicians for Social Responsibility and the National Council of Asian Pacific Islander Physicians. TENDR's long-term mission is to lower the incidence of neurodevelopmental disorders by reducing exposure levels to chemicals and pollutants that can contribute to these conditions, especially during fetal development and early childhood. More information about Project TENDR is at http://projecttendr.com/