Groups Highlight Dangerous Chemicals in Commonly Used Products

New research highlights the risks associated with human exposure to toxic chemicals contained in many everyday products, indicating that the dangerous chemicals may be causing disorders that affect the brain and nervous system. 

A consensus statement issued by a nationwide group of scientists and children’s health advocates, titled “TENDR: Targeting Environmental Neuro-Developmental Risks,” was published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives on July 1, calling for a significant reduction or full removal of the use of toxic chemicals in consumer products that may increase the risks of cognitive, behavioral, or social impairment in those exposed.

The research team launched a study in 2015 to identify some of the most prevalent and widely used toxic chemicals and pollutants linked to neurodevelopmental delays in children. The study identified several chemicals that are used extensively in consumer products, causing children and pregnant women to be regularly exposed and face the highest level of impact.

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The authors identified several toxic chemicals that impact neurological development, including organophosphate, PBDE flame retardants, and phthalates that can be found in food, plastics, furniture, food wrap, cookware, cans, carpets, shower curtains, electronics, and shampoo among many others.

Organophosphates pesticides are a diverse group of chemicals used in both domestic and industrial settings that were once even used as a compound in warfare agents in the 1930’s. The compounds are used heavily in the farming industry in areas that spray pesticides.

Mass exposures to organophosphates pesticides has been linked to neuropsychological effects, including difficulties in executive functions, psychomotor speed, verbal, memory, attention, processing speed, visual-spatial functioning, and coordination. Children exposed to higher levels of these pesticides have been found to have higher rates of developing attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Researchers found phthalates to be another very commonly used chemical that is used to soften plastics and help scents and chemicals bind together. It is commonly found in shampoos conditioners, body sprays, medical tubing, IV bags, food packaging, and various other day-to-day items. Exposure to the chemical has been associated with lower IQ levels.

Lead was also identified as one of the most frequent chemical exposures, with toddlers and infants being at the greatest risk due to suffer side effects. Very young children are commonly exposed to lead from touching objects and putting their hands in their mouths, or from eating lead paint in older homes. Lead can still be found in a variety of products and lead poisoning has been directly associated with ADHD, lower IQs and developmental delays.

Learning and Cognitive Disabilities On The Rise

The TENDR Consensus Statement details an increase in learning and behavioral problems across the nation, with one out of every six parents reporting children with some sort of developmental disability; such as learning disabilities, ADHD, autism, and various other developmental delays. This data suggests a more than 17% increase in developmental disabilities in comparison to a decade ago.

The authors link the increased rate of these disorders to wide spread exposure to toxic chemicals in air, water, food, soil, and consumer products. Toxic chemicals can interfere with healthy brain development even at extremely low levels, and the most critical time of vulnerability is during development in the womb, infancy, childhood and adolescence. Exposure to toxic chemicals during these times may prohibit a child’s ability to reach his or her full potential, the researchers warn.

The researchers are claiming “the current system in the United States for evaluating scientific evidence and making health-based decisions about environmental chemicals is fundamentally broken.” The consensus specifically asks U.S. regulators to adopt a new framework for assessing chemicals that are used in everyday items sold to consumers that could potentially be causing them to suffer developmental issues.

New legislation by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was signed into law late last month that will require all new chemicals entered into products to be tested and approved by the EPA. The law is known as the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (PDF), and was written to make significant changes to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

For existing chemicals, the new law requires the EPA to establish a risk-based process to prioritize safety reviews of chemicals into high or low priority categories, calls for the agency to start investigating at least 10 existing chemicals simultaneously in the first 180 days, with an expectation that number will be ramped up to 20 simultaneous chemical reviews within 3.5 years.


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