Toxins and Developmental Disorders

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: Are toxic exposures linked to developmental disorders in children?

Philip Landrigan, MD Dir, Children's Environmental Health Ctr.
There's a great deal of research going on today looking at chemical exposures in early life and the whole range of neuro-developmental disorders in children. Neuro-developmental disorders include dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, mild mental retardation, even autism. The evidence is building that chemicals in the environment cause some percentage of these conditions.

Philip Landrigan, MD (cont.)
The National Academy of Sciences released a report a few years ago which concluded that about 28% of neuro-developmental disorders in children are caused at least in part by chemicals. Genetics of course is another part of the story and we know that conditions like autism run in families, at least in some families. I think the latest thinking is that most of these disorders arise in children as a result of a combination of environment and genetics. That a child will have a genetic susceptibility and then be exposed to the wrong chemical at the wrong moment in early development and the result is a problem.

Philip Landrigan, MD (cont.)
Out of this research we've begun to connect the dots and we're seeing linkages between certain chemical exposures and developmental problems in children. So we know for example that lead can cause attention deficit disorder. We know that exposure of the baby in the womb to alcohol or nicotine from tobacco can cause learning disabilities in children. There is recent report from Mount Sinai School of Medicine that exposure of the baby in the womb to phthalates can produce changes in behavior that look like ADHD.