The incidence of neurological problems in children is increasing; this is especially true of autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. A substantial and growing body of scientific evidence shows that some of this increase in neurological disorder is associated with toxic chemical exposures.
Even trace amounts can cause problems
Conception through early childhood is a period of rapid brain development. During this period, toxic chemicals can harm the brain at doses much lower than those affecting adult brains.
The results of exposures to toxic chemicals in the womb, during infancy and childhood can result in lifelong problems with learning, behavior and development.
Children's bodies more vulnerable
Infants' and children's metabolisms and developing immune systems mean that their bodies are less able to get rid of contaminants or reduce the toxicity of pollutants. There appear to be strong links between toxic exposures, immune function and neurological development. For example, studies are finding that children with autism appear to have a different genetic or biochemical susceptibility to neurotoxic chemicals.
Children are also more vulnerable to harm from toxic chemicals because of their size and behaviors. Per pound of body weight, children take in more food, fluids and air than adults. They spend more time on the ground and put objects and hands into their mouths, resulting in more contact and ingestion of toxic chemicals.
Most chemicals remain untested
The great majority of chemicals have not been tested for effects on brain development. Of 3,000 chemicals produced at more than one million pounds per year, we know for certain that ten are neurotoxins that can cause or contribute to learning and developmental disabilities. We have good evidence that another 200 are also neurotoxins.
In addition, chemicals that disrupt the endocrine system can impair thyroid development and function. A healthy thyroid is essential to healthy brain development. In essence, chemicals that are endocrine disruptors, such as Bisphenol A and phthalates, PCBs, PBDEs, dioxins and organochlorine pesticides, are also neurotoxins.
New law could help reduce kids' exposure to toxic chemicals
The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976 is the main law used to regulate synthetic chemicals. But the law "grandfathered" in the 62,000 chemicals already in use at the time, allowing them to remain in circulation without any further testing. Most chemicals on the market today are part of that 62,000 and little is known about their effect on human health.
The Toxic Chemicals Safety Act (H.R. 5820), introduced in 2010 along with a companion bill in the Senate, the Safe Chemicals Act (S. 3209), would go a long way in improving the outdated TSCA. The bills would close some of the key loopholes allowing many synthetic chemicals to go untested, and would put the burden of proof on chemical companies to show their products are safe.
The bills would go a long way in bringing toxic chemical regulation into the 21st century. That's why we're asking children and concerned parents to stand with us and urge Congress to pass the strongest possible version of these bills.