Eleven Chemicals Most Harmful to Childhood Brain Development

Posted: 02/25/2014  browse the blog archive
Eleven Chemicals Most Harmful to Childhood Brain Development

A study published this month in The Lancet Neurology and reported by Forbes identified eleven chemicals strongly related to brain development disorders in children such as reduced attention span, delayed development, and learning disabilities.  Despite the fact that some of these chemicals are banned, they are present in our everyday lives and may contribute to a rise in neurobehavioral problems in children such as autism, ADHD, and dyslexia.

Those chemicals are:

  • Lead, a heavy metal; exposure occurs mostly in the form of lead in paint on tableware, inside older homes, and on toys.
  • Methylmercury, a form of mercury; exposure occurs mostly from seafood consumption.
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), a family of chemicals associated with cancer and developmental harm; often present in foods and can be passed to nursing children through breast milk.
  • Arsenic, a heavy metal; can sometimes be found in drinking water.
  • Toluene, a solvent; often found in nail polish remover.
  • Manganese, a heavy metal; sometimes found in drinking water.
  • Fluoride, often added to drinking water to strengthen teeth and bones; however, overconsumption of fluoride may be related to low IQ.
  • Chlorpyrifos and DDT, pesticides now banned in many parts of the world; linked to neurodevelopmental problems in young children.
  • Tetrachloroethylene (aka perclorethylene), cleaning solvents linked to hyperactivity and aggression; mothers working as nurses, chemists, cleaners, and hairdressers have a higher risk of exposing their unborn children.
  • Polybrominated diphenyl ethers, flame retardants that are now banned, but may still be present in old furniture and household dust.

Two other compounds of concern named in the article were Bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalate chemicals such as DEHP, DBP, and BBP.

Many of these chemicals, such as lead, mercury, arsenic, toluene, and phthalates are known to the State of California to cause cancer and/or reproductive harm.  Under Proposition 65, companies offering products for sale that contain such chemicals must provide a health hazard warning.  BPA was at one point designated as known to cause reproductive toxicity, but was delisted pending a trial in a lawsuit brought by the American Chemistry Council against the state agency that designated BPA as a known reproductive toxicant.

The Chanler Group represents citizen enforcers who, acting in the public interest, commence actions against businesses offering products for sale in California that contain chemicals known to cause cancer or reproductive harm without first providing the health hazard warning required by Proposition 65. Citizen enforcers bringing Proposition 65 actions in the public interest may obtain a Court Judgment imposing civil penalties, an injunction requiring reformulation of products, and/or provision of health hazard warnings. The Chanler Group has represented citizen enforcers of Proposition 65 for more than twenty years.