Toxic Threats to Child Development

In Harm's Way Toxic Threats to Child Development

Are you looking for some substantial reading you can do over the weekend? I’ve been reading more about the toxic environment in which our children grow and develop. I’m not concerned about the good dirt and exposure to naturally occurring bacteria that help children build their immunity naturally. I’m concerned with the heavy toxins introduced into our environment through industrialization.

In 2000, a group of physicians released In Harm’s Way, a long, peer-reviewed study of toxic chemical influences on developmental disabilities. The study is written in more plain language that most medical studies, so it’s easier for most of us to read and understand.

Though trends are difficult to establish with certainty, there is a growing consensus that learning and behavioral disorders are increasing in frequency. These disabilities are clearly the result of complex interactions among genetic, environmental, and social factors that impact children during vulnerable periods of development. Research demonstrates that pervasive toxic substances, such as mercury, lead, PCBs, dioxins, pesticides, solvents, and others, can contribute to neurobehavioral and cognitive disorders.

Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility, “In Harm’s Way: Toxic Threats to Child Development,” 2000.

If you want to understand your child’s normal brain development and how chemical toxins alter development, you will find it in this study.

You can buy a paperback version of the 149-page study for $100+ or you can download it for free in pieces or as one long PDF.

The themes that emerged from this research were:

  1. Neurodevelopmental disabilities are widespread, and chemical exposures are important and preventable contributors to these conditions.
  2. Our initial understanding of the impacts of neurotoxic substances regularly underestimates the potential for harm.
  3. Carefully conducted, long-term epidemiological studies have proven to be much more sensitive measures of developmental neurotoxicity than animal studies.
  4. Regulatory policy has repeatedly failed to protect children from widespread harm due to exposures to developmental neurotoxins.
  5. The failure of the regulatory system to protect public health can often be traced to the influence of vested economic interests upon the regulatory process.
  6. Neurodevelopmental disabilities impose social and economic costs upon impacted families and the economy as a whole.
  7. Special interests are not merely tolerated but are actually an integral part of the regulatory process.

The conclusions point the way to improving a regulatory system that has not yet adequately protected children’s health. Who, though, is going to say that they don’t have children’s health as their goal? This is common ground we all share. Starting from there, we can look at what barriers stand in the way, name them out loud, and make the changes necessary to prevent such damage to our children’s present and future.

The project didn’t stop with the publication of this study. Training programs have been created to act on findings, and they have produced many more guides for clinicians and for parents. If you find yourself intrigued by this study, there is much more where that came from.

We have to be well informed as parents if we are going to make the best decisions for our children.

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