202 new industrial chemicals

Published: Friday 15 December 2006

researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health and the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, us, examined data on chemical toxicity and have identified 202 industrial chemicals that they say are responsible for neural disorders like autism, attention deficit disorder and mental retardation in children worldwide. The study was published online in The Lancet on November 8, 2006.

"Even if substantial documentation on the toxicity of the chemicals is available, most chemicals are not regulated to protect the developing brain," says Philippe Grandjean, the study's lead author. The scientist says that it is this lack of regulation that has caused such rise of neural disorders in children.

The list was compiled from the hazardous substances data bank of the National Library of Medicine and other sources. The authors examined the published literature on the only five substances on the list--lead, methylmercury, arsenic, polychlorinates biphenylls and toluene--that had sufficient documentation of toxicity to the developing human brain in order to analyse how that toxicity had been first recognised and how it led to control of exposure. "Only a few substances, such as lead and mercury, are controlled to protect children. The 200 other chemicals that are known to be toxic to the human brain are not regulated to prevent adverse effects on the foetus or a small child," says Grandjean.

Foetal and early childhood exposure to industrial chemicals in the environment can damage the developing brain and can lead to neurodevelopmental disorders and this factor has been overlooked for long, says the authors.

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