Wednesday, February 19th, 2014
American children are exposed to at least double the levels of chemicals that are known to affect the brain in ways that are linked with disorders including autism, ADHD, and dyslexia–all disorders that have been on the rise in recent years. Time.com reports on new research that has found radical changes in chemical exposure since 2006:
In 2006, scientists from the Harvard School of Public Health and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai identified five industrial chemicals responsible for causing harm to the brain — lead, methylmercury, polychlorinated biphenyls (found in electric transformers, motors and capacitors), arsenic (found in soil and water as well as in wood preservatives and pesticides) and toluene (used in processing gasoline as well as in paint thinner, fingernail polish and leather tanning). Exposure to these neurotoxins was associated with changes in neuron development in the fetus as well as among infants, and with lower school performance, delinquent behavior, neurological abnormalities and reduced IQ in school-age children.
Now the same researchers have reviewed the literature and found six additional industrial chemicals that can hamper normal brain development. These are manganese, fluoride, chlorpyrifos, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, tetrachloroethylene and polybrominated diphenyl ethers. Manganese, they say, is found in drinking water and can contribute to lower math scores and heightened hyperactivity, while exposure to high levels of fluoride from drinking water can contribute to a seven-point drop in IQ on average. The remaining chemicals, which are found in solvents and pesticides, have been linked to deficits in social development and increased aggressive behaviors.
The research team acknowledges that there isn’t a causal connection between exposure to any single chemical and behavioral or neurological problems — it’s too challenging to isolate the effects of each chemical to come to such conclusions. But they say the growing body of research that is finding links between higher levels of these chemicals in expectant mothers’ blood and urine and brain disorders in their children should raise alarms about how damaging these chemicals can be. The developing brain in particular, they say, is vulnerable to the effects of these chemicals, and in many cases, the changes they trigger are permanent.
“The consequence of such brain damage is impaired [central nervous system] function that lasts a lifetime and might result in reduced intelligence, as expressed in terms of lost IQ points, or disruption in behavior,” they write in their report, which was published in the journal Lancet Neurology.
They point to two barriers to protecting children from such exposures — not enough testing of industrial chemicals and their potential effect on brain development before they are put into widespread use, and the enormous amount of proof that regulatory agencies require in order to put restrictions or limitations on chemicals.
Image: Chemical pesticides, via Shutterstock
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ADHD, Autism, brain chemistry, chemicals, dyslexia, fluoride, pesticides, toxic chemicals | Categories:
Child Health, Must Read, New Research, Trends
Tuesday, November 19th, 2013
Exposure to phthalates, a type of chemical used in certain plastics and cosmetics, has been linked in a recent study to an elevated risk that pregnant women will deliver their babies prematurely. More from Reuters:
Researchers found that women who delivered babies before 37 weeks gestation had higher levels of phthalates in their urine, compared to women who delivered their children at full term, which is 39 weeks.
“Preterm birth is a real public health problem,” said John Meeker, who led the study. “We’re not really sure how to go about preventing it, but this may shed light on environmental factors that people may want to be educated in.”
Meeker, from the University of Michigan School of Public Health in Ann Arbor, added, “We knew that exposure to phthalates was virtually ubiquitous here in the U.S. and possibly worldwide and preterm births increased for unknown reasons over the past several decades.”
Phthalates are included in products for a variety of reasons, include to make plastic flexible.
Image: Lipsticks, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, October 15th, 2013
The chemical compound called bisphenol-A (BPA), which is found in many plastics and food can linings, has been linked to a heightened miscarriage risk in women who struggled to conceive or have experienced repeated miscarriages. The finding comes from a new study presented this week to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. More from The Associated Press:
The work is not nearly enough to prove a link, but it adds to ‘‘the biological plausibility’’ that BPA might affect fertility and other aspects of health, said Dr. Linda Giudice, a California biochemist who is president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. The study was to be presented Monday at the group’s annual conference in Boston. Last month, ASRM and an obstetricians group urged more attention to environmental chemicals and their potential hazards for pregnant women.
BPA, short for bisphenol-A, and certain other environmental chemicals can have very weak, hormone-like effects. Tests show BPA in nearly everyone’s urine, though the chemical has been removed from baby bottles and many reusable drink containers in recent years. The federal Food and Drug Administration says BPA is safe as used now in other food containers.
Most miscarriages are due to egg or chromosome problems, and a study in mice suggested BPA might influence that risk, said Dr. Ruth Lathi, a Stanford University reproductive endocrinologist.
With a federal grant, she and other researchers studied 115 newly pregnant women with a history of infertility or miscarriage; 68 wound up having miscarriages and 47 had live births.
Researchers say it is virtually impossible to avoid exposure to BPA completely. The AP offers some tips on how to minimize exposure:
To minimize BPA exposure, avoid cooking or warming food in plastic because heat helps the chemical leak out, she said. Don’t leave water bottles in the sun, limit use of canned foods and avoid handling cash register receipts, which often are coated with resins that contain BPA.
Image: Food can, via Shutterstock
Get our Everything Pregnancy blogger’s take on the link between BPA and your miscarriage risk here.
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Monday, December 31st, 2012
A report on the possible health effects for children of chemicals in everyday products, long in the works at an agency of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has been sidelined by bureaucratic entanglements and serious opposition from the chemical industry. NBC News calls the “America’s Children and the Environment” (ACE) report a “landmark” that contains information linking toxic chemicals to illnesses from asthma to learning disabilities, analyzes the extent to which the air inside schools and day care centers may be polluted, and discusses possible health risks to pregnant women and their fetuses. From NBC:
In the making since 2008, the ACE report is based on peer-reviewed research and databases from federal agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration, Housing and Urban Development and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Public health officials view it as a source of one-stop shopping for the best information on what children and women of childbearing age are exposed to, how much of it remains in their bodies and what the health effects might be. Among the “health outcomes” listed as related to environmental exposures are childhood cancer, obesity, neurological disorders, respiratory problems and low birth weight.
The report cites hundreds of studies — both human, epidemiological studies that show a correlation between exposure to certain chemical pollutants and negative health outcomes, and animal studies that demonstrate cause and effect. In some cases, the authors note, certain chemicals have been detected in children, but not enough is known about their effects to draw conclusions about safety.
In a section on perfluorochemicals (PFCs), for example, which are used to make nonstick coatings, and protect textiles and carpets from water, grease and soil, among other things, the draft notes that they are found in human breast milk.
The report said that “a growing number of human health studies” have found an association between prenatal exposure to PFCs and low birth weight, decreased head circumference and low birth length. It also stated that based on “emerging evidence suggests that exposure to some PFCs can have negative impacts on human thyroid function.”
Furthermore, it noted that animal studies produced similar results, although exposures were typically at higher levels than people are exposed to.
The EPA’s website still notes that the report will be published by the end of 2011. But after a public comment period that was marked by unusually harsh criticism from industry, additional peer review and input from other agencies, the report landed at OMB last March, where it has remained. No federal rule requires the OMB to review such a report before publication, but EPA spokeswoman Julia Valentine said the agency referred it to the OMB because its impact cuts across several federal agencies.
The spokeswoman said EPA had no idea when OMB would release it, allowing publication.
Image: Child near factory, via Shutterstock
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Friday, January 13th, 2012
Coca-Cola, which manufactures both the Simply Orange and Minute Maid brands of orange juice, has reported to federal regulators that the company has detected low levels of the fungicide carbendazim in its juice and in an unnamed competitors’ juice. The fungicide, which is illegal for use on food in the United States, is widely used against mold on orange trees in Brazil, which exports orange juice to many U.S. companies.
“This is an industry issue that affects every company that produces products in the U.S. using orange juice from Brazil,” said Coca-Cola spokesman Dan Schafer.
The FDA said Coca-Cola found levels up to 35 parts per billion of the fungicide, far below the European Union’s maximum residue level of 200 parts per billion. The U.S. government has not established a maximum residue level for carbendazim in orange juice, though the Environmental Protection Agency has said a risk assessment showed no risks of concern at up to 80 parts per billion.
Most orange juice products made by Coke and other companies contain a blend of juice from different sources including Brazil. In addition to Coca-Cola, Pepsico Inc.’s Tropicana brand is one of the largest U.S. orange juice producers. A spokesman for Tropicana declined to say whether the company had done its own testing for the fungicide.
The FDA told MSNBC that it has not detected carbendazim levels higher than 10 parts per billion–if they had, a recall would be in effect. The agency said it urges the industry to stop using the fungicide, and that any discovery of higher levels will prompt a recall.
Image: Orange juice, via Shutterstock.
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