News / Health

Toxic Chemicals Blamed for 'Silent Pandemic' of Brain Disorders in Children

Workers inspect an area outside a retaining wall around storage tanks where a chemical leaked into the Elk River at Freedom Industries storage facility in Charleston, West Virginia, Jan. 13, 2014.
Workers inspect an area outside a retaining wall around storage tanks where a chemical leaked into the Elk River at Freedom Industries storage facility in Charleston, West Virginia, Jan. 13, 2014.
Jessica Berman
Experts are calling for a targeted strategy to restrict the use of toxic industrial chemicals, which they say are causing a “silent pandemic” of brain disorders in children worldwide.  Scientists are urging action as more so-called neurotoxins have been identified but remain largely unregulated.

A rise in the number of pediatric brain disorders, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia, cerebral palsy and autism, may be the result of increased use of unregulated toxic chemicals around the world. 

In the past seven years, researchers have identified six new chemicals that have been shown to be capable of damaging the brains of developing human fetuses and young children. The discovery brings to twelve the number of confirmed neurotoxins.  Experts estimate one in six children worldwide suffers from a neurodevelopmental disorder.

Pediatrician Philip Landrigan, chairman of the Department of Preventive Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, said exposure to neurotoxic chemicals was a serious problem that has reached pandemic proportions. 

“Injury to the human brain in early life leads to problems like loss of IQ, shortening of attention span, behavioral problems.  And these effects by and large tend to be permanent,” he said.

Pouring over scientific literature and hundreds of studies, Landrigan, along with the University of Southern Denmark’s Phillipe Grandjean, found the number of chemicals suspected of causing neurodevelopmental problems in children has also risen, from 202 to 214.  They said there were some 80,000 industrial chemicals in widespread use which have never been tested for safety.

The toxins include fire retardants used in mattresses, draperies, carpets, clothing and toys, and solvents in cleaning agents.

The researchers are calling on countries to pass strong laws requiring companies to test chemicals before they may be marketed, as is required of all new drugs. 

In an interview via Skype, Grandjean said identifying potential neurotoxins was not difficult.

“We have the methods available to test chemicals, whether they can damage brain development.  The methods are there.  So, this is just a matter of deciding this is the kind of testing we will do for chemical substances,” he said.

Grandjean and Landrigan were also calling for the establishment of an international clearinghouse to examine what’s known about chemicals and making that information publicly available.

Landrigan said the European Union had a strict chemical control law and many products, such as cosmetics containing hazardous chemicals which are banned in Europe, are being dumped in countries with weak laws.

Philip Landrigan and Phillipe Grandjean published their report on neurotoxins in the journal The Lancet Neurology.

You May Like

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Video Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Greg George from: 61820
February 15, 2014 3:02 PM
the studies are extremely difficult to do an extremely expensive. the only practical approach is to triage these chemicals to determine which represent the most significant exposure levels young demographic then test these. The people who invented and manufactured these chemicals, along with the people who profit from their use, should be responsible for the cost of their testing. its time, Republicans to start showing some respect for the environment we all share.


by: Jim from: Washington
February 15, 2014 2:07 PM
What about nuclear waste?!? Like Fukushima going on for three years?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid