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Early BPA Exposure Could Lead to ADHD in Children

Early BPA Exposure Could Lead to ADHD in Children

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A new study shows that the chemical, found in plastic, might be an endocrine disruptor.

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ADHD is a common neurodevelopmental disorder that’s usually diagnosed during childhood. Kids with ADHD may have trouble paying attention, controlling impulsive behaviors, or be overly active. ADHD is typically treated with combinations of medication and behavioral therapy.

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We’re still learning about what exactly causes ADHD, but recent research published in the journal Environment International seem to indicate that children (and rats) who are exposed to BPA at an early age have a higher risk of developing ADHD during childhood.

According to the study, BPA—a chemical commonly added to thermal paper receipts, can linings, plastic water bottles, and food packaging—is an endocrine disruptor. This means it interferes with hormone production and balance. The bad news? Most canned foods in America still contain BPA.

The research examined over 30 studies on humans and rodents, and determined that early BPA exposure was a possible contributor to hyperactivity in kids. The study also showed BPA to be a “presumed human hazard.”

This comes just two weeks after Stephen Ostroff M.D., the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, released a statement determining that BPA “was safe for use in food containers and packaging.”

Although there’s conflicting evidence, one thing is clear: The research on BPA and ADHD is still new, and not enough has been done on humans to establish a super-solid link. If you want to err on the safe side, there are some easy ways to limit your BPA exposure, especially for pregnant women and young children: Switch to BPA-free water bottles and food containers, and cook more fresh foods at home—BPA can be found in aluminum cans, plastic bottles, and pre-packaged food containers.

Even Low Lead Exposure Linked To ADHD

Very low levels of lead in the blood &ndash previously believed to be safe &ndash could be contributing to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, according to a Michigan State University study of 150 children in the Lansing area.

The research findings support a growing body of national evidence suggesting there is no safe level of lead in the blood, said Joel Nigg, MSU professor of psychology and study director. Other studies show a link between low-level lead exposure and lower IQ.

Nigg said the mounting research spotlights the need for potentially tougher regulations on items that contain lead and other harmful elements that can get into the food supply or local environment of children &ndash from cosmetics to cleaning supplies to electronic goods. Millions of Chinese-made toys have been recalled in the past year due to lead paint.

&ldquoWe&rsquove got to re-examine the rules by which we release new materials into children&rsquos environments, the way other countries like Canada and Sweden have begun to do,&rdquo Nigg said.

According to the study, which examined both children with and without ADHD, all 150 children had at least some lead in their blood, although none had levels higher than the 10 micrograms per deciliter level currently considered unsafe by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Children with ADHD had higher levels of lead in the blood than those without the disorder, according to the study, which was conducted with help from the Michigan Department of Community Health.

The neurotoxic effects of lead in the blood can interfere with stages of brain growth, such as synapse formation &ndash a critical element in the development of appropriate self-regulatory control, according to Nigg&rsquos 2006 book, &ldquoWhat Causes ADHD?&rdquo Children 2 and younger are especially vulnerable, he said.

While the &ldquosafe&rdquo level for lead in the blood was lowered from 25 mcg/dl to 10 mcg/ld in 1991, some scientists are now calling for the level to be dropped to 5 mcg/dl or even lower.

Nigg&rsquos study is the first to examine such low blood levels in children diagnosed with ADHD under formal clinical criteria. Earlier studies used out-of-date criteria or children with much higher levels of blood lead. The average blood lead level of children with ADHD in the MSU study was less than 1.3 mcg/dl.

Bruce Lanphear is a physician and professor of pediatrics at Cincinnati Children&rsquos Hospital Medical Center who also researches the effects of lead exposure in children. Lanphear, who was not involved in the MSU research, said, &ldquoThis study, which is the first to examine the association of ADHD using strict diagnostic criteria, provides convincing evidence that low-level lead exposure is a risk factor of ADHD in children. Taken together with other research, this study provides sufficient evidence to increase our efforts to further reduce allowable levels in air, house dust, and water and consumer products.&rdquo

While the study didn&rsquot examine where the lead exposure originated, Nigg speculates it came from lead dust in old houses and schools. Although lead paint was banned in 1978, many older housing units still contain some level of lead.

&ldquoNo one can completely eliminate all dust and lead from those houses,&rdquo Nigg said. &ldquoIf you&rsquore a parent of an infant or toddler in an older home who is worried about this, your best advice is to become scrupulous about sweeping up dust and dirt, filter tap water, remove chipped paint and monitor what your children put in their mouths.&rdquo

Aging lead water pipes are also a potential source, according to the CDC. The Lansing Board of Water and Light is in the process of replacing thousands of lead water pipes in the city of Lansing. Many other U.S. cities also have replaced lead water pipes that were installed in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

The MSU study will continue for at least two more years and Nigg said he wants to triple the number of participants. To volunteer, parents of children ages 8-16 years with or without ADHD can call (517) 432-4894. Families receive a small payment and free screening for ADHD and learning problems.

His group&rsquos latest research will appear in the Feb. 15 issue of Biological Psychiatry and is currently in the journal&rsquos online edition. The study is funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and the MSU Office of the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies.

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Materials provided by Michigan State University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Health risk of exposure to Bisphenol A (BPA)

Bisphenol A (BPA) belongs to chemicals that are produced in large quantities worldwide. It is commonly used as monomer in polycarbonate synthesis, plasticizer in the production of epoxy resins, as well as an additive for the elimination of surfeit of hydrochloric acid during the polyvinyl chloride (PVC) production. BPA is not only used in the production of plastics intended to a direct contact with food, including plastic packaging and kitchenware, but also in inner coatings of cans and jar caps. There are various routes of human exposure to this substance such as oral, by inhalation and transdermal. The main sources of exposure to BPA include food packaging and dust, dental materials, healthcare equipment, thermal paper, toys and articles for children and infants. BPA is metabolized in the liver to form bisphenol A glucuronide and mostly in this form is excreted with urine. Due to its phenolic structure BPA has been shown to interact with estrogen receptors and to act as agonist or antagonist via estrogen receptor (ER) dependent signalling pathways. Therefore, BPA has been shown to play a role in the pathogenesis of several endocrine disorders including female and male infertility, precocious puberty, hormone dependent tumours such as breast and prostate cancer and several metabolic disorders including polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Because of the constant, daily exposure and its tendency to bio-accumulation, BPA seems to require special attention such as biomonitoring. This observation should include clinical tests of BPA concentration in the urine, which is not only one of the best methods of evaluation of the exposure to this compound, but also the dependence of the daily intake of BPA and the risk of some endocrine disorders.

11 Toxic Chemicals Affecting Brain Development In Children

The list of chemicals that can affect brain development in children has grown. In a study out today in The Lancet Neurology, researchers outline new chemicals that may be contributing to what they dub the “global, silent pandemic of neurodevelopmental toxicity.” In 2006, the team had released a list of five neurotoxins that may contribute to everything from cognitive deficits to attention problems. Now that list is expanded, based on new research that has since accumulated on chemicals linked to developmental disorders in children. Today, they outline six more.

"The greatest concern is the large numbers of children who are affected by toxic damage to brain development in the absence of a formal diagnosis," said study author Philippe Grandjean, of the Harvard School of Public Health. “They suffer reduced attention span, delayed development, and poor school performance. Industrial chemicals are now emerging as likely causes.”

Neurobehavioral problems, like autism, ADHD, and dyslexia, affect about 10-15% of kids born today, the authors say. Genes play a large role in some of these disorders – but not that large. Only about 30-40% of the cases of the disorders can be accounted for by genes alone, so environment must make up the other part. Outlining those compounds can be difficult, but the research is mounting, and pointing to a growing list of chemicals that we should avoid.

Because of the frequency with which these chemicals are present in our everyday lives – even banned ones – and the rising rates of developmental disorders in children, the authors say that urgent change should take place: “A new framework of action is needed.”

Here are the 11chemicals for which there is strong evidence of connection to neurodevelopmental disorders in children:

Lead–This is one of the most extensively researched compounds in terms of neurodevelopment, and has been consistently linked to serious deficits, including low IQ. Its effects seem to be permanent, leading to the conclusion that there is no safe level of exposure.

Methylmercury–Affecting the neurological development of the fetus,exposure often comes from maternal intake of fish containing high levels of mercury, according to the World Health Organization and the EPA.

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) – This family of chemicals has routinely been associated with reduced cognitive function in infancy and childhood. It is often present in foods, particularly fish, and can be passed along in breast milk.

Arsenic – When absorbed through drinking water, this chemical has been linked to reduced cognitive function in schoolchildren. Follow-up studies from the Morinaga milk poisoning incident have linked it to neurological disease in adulthood.

Toluene – Used as a solvent, maternal exposure has been linked to brain development problems and attention deficit in the child, according to the EPA and OSHA.

Manganese – In the drinking water in Bangladesh, for example, this chemical has been linked to lower scores in math, diminished intellectual function, and ADHD.

Fluoride – Higher levels of this chemical has been connected with a 7-point decrease in IQ in children.

Chlorpyrifos and DDT (pesticides) – Linked to structural abnormalities of the brain and neurodevelopmental problems that persist up to age 7. These pesticides are banned in many parts of the world (U.S. included), but still used in many lower-income countries. They have recently been linked to Alzheimer’s disease as well.

Tetrachloroethylene (AKAperchlorethylene)– These solvents have been linked to hyperactivity and aggressive behavior, and increased risk of psychiatric diagnosis. Mothers in certain professional roles, like nurse, chemist, cleaner, hairdresser, and beautician had higher levels of exposure.

The polybrominateddiphenyl ethers – These flame retardants are banned now, but believed to be neurotoxins. Prenatal exposure has been linked to neurodevelopmental disorders in the child.

Two more compounds of concern are bisphenol A (BPA), a common plastics additive, and phthalate, found in many cosmetics. BPA is an endocrine (hormone) disruptor, and, strongly suspected to affect neurodevelopment in children, it has been banned in baby bottles and sippy cups. Phthalates, which are common in personal products like nail polish and hair spray, have been routinely linked to shortened attention span and impaired social interactions in children.

The developing human brain is incredibly vulnerable to chemical exposures, both in utero and in early childhood, and these changes can be lifelong. “During these sensitive life stages,” say the authors, “chemicals can cause permanent brain injury at low levels of exposure that would have little or no adverse effect in an adult.”

The neurotoxin “pandemic” is disturbing enough that the authors strongly recommend having mandatory tests for chemicals, which many have been arguing for years. One common complaint has been that when one compound does finally become banned, another equally toxic and often untested chemical may take its place. More rigorous testing, though complicated to carry out, might address this major issue.

"The problem is international in scope,” says Grandjean,“and the solution must therefore also be international. We have the methods in place to test industrial chemicals for harmful effects on children's brain development—now is the time to make that testing mandatory."

Avoiding these chemicals can be difficult, because they are so prevalent, and present in food, cosmetics, receipt papers, and containers. But reading labels and avoiding certain products is a start. For more information on how to do this, please see the Environmental Working Group’s website.

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Our boys

I said I would get into our boys and how this is impacting them. I felt that this really needed it’s own section. BPA isn’t the only thing we should be avoiding. There are things called phthalates and they have me pretty worried.

Phthalates are more endocrine disruptors and they are used in virtually everything and anything. It’s used in PVC (polyvinyl chloride) pipes because it’s so resilient. It’s also found in things like shampoo, shower gels, makeup, air fresheners, dryer sheets, medical tubing and flooring. So now that you know where they are, let me tell you what they do specifically.

Phthalates are known to target the hormone hCG (human chorionic gonadotropohin), which is critical in developing fetuses in the early stages of pregnancy. There is a correlation between lack of hCG and miscarriage and that number seems to be much greater in male fetuses. Male fetuses exposed to phthalate during the critical first trimester have been shown to have a much greater risk of low sperm count and infertility later on in life.

Phthalate exposure has been linked to birth defects, polycystic ovary disease, early or delayed puberty, reduced IQ, and inattention with hyperactivity. Can anybody say ADHD? I don’t believe in coincidences and with the increases in infertility, early onset puberty and ADHD, I’d say we should be overly cautious when it comes to what we expose ourselves and, more importantly, our children to.

BPA: What You Need to Know

Plastic pollution is a problem, and BPA plays a large role.

BPA - a common chemical in durable plastics - is detrimental to our health and remains in widespread use.

We can all take steps to prevent usage of BPA plastics. Use our easy guide.

Why are people concerned about BPA?

BPA is concerning to many because of the health effects and because human exposure to BPA is so widespread.

BPA is an endocrine (hormone) disruptor. It can imitate the body's natural hormones and interfere with their function. BPA mimics the structure and function of the hormone estrogen. Due to its estrogen-like shape, BPA can bind to estrogen receptors and influence normal bodily processes. These include growth, cell repair, fetal development, and reproduction.

Studies have shown that infants born to mothers exposed to BPA weigh up to half a pound less, on average, than infants born to unexposed mothers. BPA exposure during early life may also influence hormonal development and behavior in children.

BPA exposure has been shown to cause:

  • Impaired brain development
  • ADHD and anxiety-related disorders
  • Childhood weight gain and obesity.

Pregnant women, infants and young children face the greatest risk.

What is Bisphenol-A? Where is it found?

BPA is a chemical that serves as a key ingredient in polycarbonate plastic, making the plastic much more durable and strong.

It was first discovered in 1891 by a Russian chemist but not widely used until the 1950s, when chemists realized it could be mixed with other compounds to produce strong and resilient plastics. In 2015, an estimated four million tons of BPA-derived chemicals were produced, making it one of the highest produced chemicals worldwide.

Today, BPA plastic is commonly made into a variety of popular consumer items such as:

  • Reusable water bottles
  • Plastic food containers
  • Baby bottles
  • Sports equipment.

BPA is also used to create epoxy resins, used to line the inside canned food containers to prevent the metal from corroding. And that grittiness you feel when you rub a thermal paper sales receipt between your fingers? That's BPA.

BPA science in the news

Want more in-depth coverage of BPA in our environment? Our journalists make it their business to cover the latest science:

Sign up for our FREE daily newsletter featuring the most consequential news on our environment and health, hand-selected by our editors – Above the Fold.

How does BPA enter the body?

The main source of BPA exposure is diet, particularly packaged and canned foods.

BPA containers can leach the chemical into your food or beverage, seeping into the container's contents before you ingest them. The degree to which BPA seeps into your food may depend more on the temperature of the container than the age - heat can break the containers down over time, allowing the chemical to be more easily released.

How You Can Act

On a personal level, you can protect yourself and your family in several simple ways.

  1. Avoid thermal paper receipts
  2. Turn to glass, porcelain, or stainless steel food storage containers and reduce use of plastic. Choose wax paper over plastic wrap. There is no such thing as microwave- or dishwasher-safe plastic: Repeated studies show heat leaches BPA from plastic.
  3. Seek out BPA-free cans, or adjust your diet to include more fresh foods.
  4. Subscribe to one of our newsletters to stay informed on the most up-to-date research and news. Subscribe here.

On a national level, take the time to reach out to government representatives to act for those that cannot and future generations.

Ask these questions.

  1. Why, if the FDA banned BPA in baby bottles in 2012, does the chemical remain in so many products today?
  2. Why are we not properly testing BPA and other chemicals that interfere with our hormones?
  3. Why allow the blood of most Americans to be tainted with chemicals tied to birth defects, obesity, diabetes, and reproductive problems?

. to these people:

  1. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J. and chair, House Committee on Energy & Commerce, [email protected]
  2. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. And chair, Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions
  3. Dr. Brett P. Giroir, acting commissioner, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, [email protected]
  4. Your representative in Congress

Want to learn more about BPA?'s year-long investigation into federal regulation of bisphenol-A exposure found a willful blindness to contemporary science.

This ignored science shows grave concern for our health and reproductive systems at exposures we likely all face.

It's time now to take steps to change this.

Read the full investigation here:

Check out our continuing coverage of BPA news here:

Sign up for our FREE daily newsletter featuring the most consequential news on our environment and health, hand-selected by our editors – Above the Fold.

What Is BPA?

BPA is produced in very large quantities for use in polycarbonate (hard) plastics and epoxy resins (used as lacquers to coat metal products and prevent corrosion). As such, items that contain BPA include:

  • Plastic cups, plates, bottles, storage containers, toys, and packaging
  • Impact-resistant safety equipment
  • Medical devices
  • Dental sealants and composites
  • Canned goods (specifically the interior linings of cans)

And that’s not all—it’s in some paper products too! A powdered form of BPA is added to heat-sensitive paper like sales receipts, tickets (lottery, movie, airline, etc.), and shipping labels.

Basically, you can’t escape BPA…it’s everywhere. Roughly 6 billion pounds of BPA is produced annually worldwide. In 2002, researchers discovered 41% of 139 US streams tested had measurable levels of the chemical. 1

While it’s a pervasive in our environment, human exposure actually comes primarily through consuming foods and beverages that have been in contact with the compound. Studies show that 93% of the population has detectable levels of BPA in their urine. 2

Food that is stored in plastic containers or in cans lined with BPA are the biggest culprits (which is why all of my Vervana products come in glass jars or bottles). A higher amount of BPA seeps into food when plastic containers are heated (such as in the microwave), or if the plastic is scratched up. Something as seemingly as insignificant as grabbing a sales receipt is also problematic as BPA is easily transferred onto skin and then absorbed that way.

The liver quickly metabolizes BPA, and the body excretes it through urine within a day. This means a single exposure really shouldn’t cause an issue. However, BPA is ever-present. Our bodies are continually being blasted with this chemical—when we drink from plastic water bottles, cut produce on plastic cutting boards, open up a can of tomatoes, and so on.

Is there any wonder why the vast majority of people regularly have measurable levels of BPA in their bodies?

10 Common Toxins Linked to ADHD and Autism

Marketers and industry professionals like to tell us that advancements in the world of chemistry have made our lives easier and healthier, but there’s much evidence to the contrary. In fact, there is growing evidence that many of these chemicals have neurotoxic properties and may even be related to neurobehavioral developmental problems such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism, among others, including several types of cancers.

The number of cases of ADHD and autism have exploded over the past few decades. In fact, the most recent (2014) prevalence data on autism from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that 1 in 68 children aged 8 years (compared with 2012 data of 1 in 88 children) have autism spectrum disorder. The CDC also reports a steady increase in the number of diagnosed cases of ADHD between 2003 and 2011 (from 7.8% to 11.0%).

What’s behind the increasing numbers of children with ADHD and autism? Although there are no definitive answers, experts generally agree it’s a combination of genetic, environmental, and diagnostic factors (i.e., a broadening of the diagnostic criteria for these conditions).

In a recent Lancet Neurology report, a team of researchers at Harvard School of Public Health and New York’s Mount Sinai discussed the role of chemicals in causing these neurodevelopmental disabilities. They identified eleven substances known to have neurotoxic impacts and said “that even more neurotoxicants remain undiscovered.”

Children are especially vulnerable to the effects of such chemicals, most specifically in utero and during infancy and early childhood. The study’s authors explain that “During these sensitive life stages, chemicals can cause permanent brain injury at low levels of exposure that would have little or no adverse effect in an adult.” What are some of the chemicals believed to be associated with the signs and symptoms of ADHD and autism?

Exposure to airborne arsenic has been associated with an increased risk of autism. In a 2015 report in The Science of the Total Environment, researchers looked at prenatal and perinatal exposures to air pollutants (ie, arsenic, lead, mercury) and autism spectrum disorder prevalence. They found that autism prevalence was higher in areas closest to the offending industries than those furthest away. In another study, an international team looked at urinary arsenic levels in 261 children who lived in a high industrial and mining area. They found that urinary arsenic levels “were associated with impaired attention/cognitive function, even at levels considered safe.”

2. Chlorpyrifos and DDT (Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane)

The pesticides chlorpyrifos and DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane)have been linked to brain abnormalities and neurodevelopmental problems, including ADHD and learning disabilities, according to the authors of the Lancet Neurology report. Even though these pesticides have been banned in the United States and many other countries, they still persist in the environment and are used in some developing nations. The main source of exposure is fruits and vegetables.

The addition of fluoride to drinking water is controversial for a number of reasons, not least of which is its possible association with neurodevelopmental problems. Fluoride is an excitotoxin, a substance that can bind to certain glutamate receptors and cause nerve cell death. Research suggests that neurotoxins such as fluoride (and lead) can cause biochemical changes in the developing brain such as those seen in autism.

A meta-analysis looked at 27 studies of children exposed to fluoride in their water. The findings suggested an average drop in IQ of 7 points among children exposed to elevated levels of fluoride.

Extensive research has been done on the health impact of lead exposure, especially in children. Although the US Environmental Protection Agency has a number of regulations concerning lead, including one that banned its use in paints since 1978, lead can still be found in the environment and everyday items. Children can be exposed to pre-1978 paints or items made overseas that contain lead. The heavy metal is still found in drinking water (either naturally or from plumbing pipes) and soil. In addition to low IQ levels, lead exposure has been linked to attention and behavioral problems, aggressiveness, hearing difficulties, irritability, reduced sensations, and loss of acquired developmental skills.

In a recent study appearing in the International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health, experts looked at the blood levels of lead and other contaminants in pregnant mothers. They found ADHD-related behavior rose as exposure to lead increased.

5. Manganese

Several studies show that exposure to the mineral manganese can have an adverse effect on children. For example, manganese in drinking water was associated with poorer achievement in math in school children, while high concentrations of the mineral in children’s hair samples correlated with hyperactivity. Children exposed to airborne manganese have demonstrated reduced intellectual abilities and impaired motor skills. A review in the International Journal of Occupational Medicine and Environmental Health (2013) noted two studies found exposure to manganese to be related to ADHD.

6. Methylmercury

Methylmercury is an organic form of mercury that is found primarily in fish and shellfish. The Environmental Protection Agency explains that the primary health impact of methylmercury among fetuses, infants, and children is impaired neurological development, including problems with memory, fine motor skills, attention, language, cognitive thinking, and visual spatial skills. This damage can begin in the womb, when pregnant women consume fish and shellfish that contain methylmercury.

7. Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs)

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are better known as flame retardants. They are used in products ranging from electronics to furniture, building materials, motor vehicles, clothing, plastics, and polyurethane foams. People are exposed to PBDEs from these items as well as in some foods and through inhalation. PBDEs can accumulate in breast milk, fatty tissue, and blood. Research indicates that PBDEs are associated with infertility, hormone disruption (e.g., estrogen, thyroid hormones) and developmental problems in children.

A recent (August 2015) study from the University of California, Berkeley, for example, measured PBDEs in prenatal and children (age 9) and discovered “consistent associations of prenatal exposure to PBDEs with poorer attention and executive function.” The authors concluded that their findings “add to a growing literature showing that these ubiquitous toxicants may adversely affect neurodevelopment.” Several states, including California, Maine, and Washington, have banned the use of PBDEs, as has the European Union (limited ban).

8. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)

Despite a ban on polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) by the United States Congress in 1978, this carcinogenic substance remains in the air, soil, and water, much of it due to improper disposal in landfills and incineration. That means it can continue to contaminate our food and water supplies, including breast milk. Exposure to PCBs have been associated with reduced cognitive function in infants and children.

In fact, a recent (2013) report in the International Journal of Occupational Medicine and Environmental Health reviewed the evidence on the impact of prenatal and postnatal exposure to PCBs and other substances (e.g., manganese, mercury, lead) on ADHD in children. The authors reported that exposures to PCBs “were associated with ADHD-like behaviors such as alertness, quality of alert response, and cost of attention.”

9. Tetrachloroethylene

This solvent, also referred to as dry cleaning fluid, is widely used in the dry cleaning industry and as a metal degreaser. The International Agency for Research on Cancer says tetrachloroethylene is a probable human carcinogen and a soil contaminant. Exposure to tetrachloroethylene has been associated with aggressive behavior and hyperactivity.

This solvent is found in common items ranging from glue (which children use) to paints, adhesives, nail polish, automobile emissions, synthetic fragrances, and cigarette smoke. According to the authors of the recent Lancet Neurology report, “maternal exposure [to toluene] has been linked to brain development problems and attention deficit in the child, according to the EPA and OSHA.”

It isn’t always possible to avoid exposure to these toxins in our environment, but knowing which ones pose a health hazard may help alleviate their impact. Parents, researchers, and other concerned individuals need to be persistent in convincing industry leaders and government officials to take the proper steps to eliminate these toxins.

Chemicals and the brain

Some chemicals—lead, mercury and organophosphate pesticides, for example—have long been recognized as toxic substances that can have lasting effects on children’s neurological health, says Bruce Lanphear, health sciences professor at Simon Fraser University. While leaded paint is now banned in the US, it is still present in many homes and remains in use elsewhere around the world. Children can also be exposed to lead from paints, colorings and metals used in toys, even though these uses are prohibited by US law (remember Thomas the Tank Engine), and through contaminated soil or other environmental exposure as well as from plastics in which lead is used as a softener. Mercury exposure sources include some fish, air pollution and old mercury-containing thermometers and thermostats. While a great many efforts have gone into reducing and eliminating these exposures, concerns continue, particularly because we now recognize that adverse effects can occur at exceptionally low levels.

But scientists are also now discovering that chemical compounds common in outdoor air—including components of vehicle exhaust and fine particulate matter—as well as in indoor air and consumer products can also adversely affect brain development, including prenatally.

Chemicals in flame retardants, plastics, and personal care and other household products are among those Lanphear lists as targets of concern for their neurodevelopment effects.

Chemicals that prompt hormonal changes are increasingly suspected to have neurological effects, says Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and National Toxicology Program. Among the chemicals now being examined for neurological impacts that occur early in life are flame retardants known as PBDEs that have been used extensively in upholstery foams, electronics and other products phthalates, widely used as plasticizers and in synthetic fragrances the polycarbonate plastic ingredient bisphenol A, known commonly as BPA perfluorinated compounds, whose applications include stain-, water- and grease-resistant coatings and various pesticides.


Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) might increase the risk of childhood diseases by disrupting hormone-mediated processes that are critical for growth and development during gestation, infancy and childhood. The fetus, infant and child might have enhanced sensitivity to environmental stressors such as EDCs due to their rapid development and increased exposure to some EDCs as a consequence of development-specific behaviour, anatomy and physiology. In this Review, I discuss epidemiological studies examining the relationship between early-life exposure to bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates, triclosan and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) with childhood neurobehavioural disorders and obesity. The available epidemiological evidence suggest that prenatal exposure to several of these ubiquitous EDCs is associated with adverse neurobehaviour (BPA and phthalates) and excess adiposity or increased risk of obesity and/or overweight (PFAS). Quantifying the effects of EDC mixtures, improving EDC exposure assessment, reducing bias from confounding, identifying periods of heightened vulnerability and elucidating the presence and nature of sexually dimorphic EDC effects would enable stronger inferences to be made from epidemiological studies than currently possible. Ultimately, improved estimates of the causal effects of EDC exposures on child health could help identify susceptible subpopulations and lead to public health interventions to reduce these exposures.

Causes Of Autism, ADHD

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the rate of autism in the US has increased 30% from 1 in 88 just two years ago to 1 in 68. With increased public focus on this disease and other behavioral disorders, researchers are seeking answers for the escalation in rates that range from improved diagnosis by health care professionals to over diagnosis and perhaps most fascinating the link that exposure to chemical toxins plays in its onset, particularly during pregnancy when the fetus's brain development is adversely impacted.

Autism and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are not simple diseases for which cures are readily available nor are they simply caused by genetics even though researchers have identified several genes associated with both&mdash this according to recent studies attempting to pinpoint the influence of environment on genetic susceptibilities. This new science in which our surroundings are thought to influence genetic expression is called epigenetics, and if the findings detailed in this report pan out over time, as they appear to, it suggests that parents and caregivers of children with autism, ADHD and other behavioral disorders might have an option to prevent or reduce symptoms of these diseases.

Genetics or endocrine disruptors?

If genetics were the overriding determinant of autism, then one would expect that identical twins would have a higher rate of autism among both pairs than fraternal siblings. After all, identical twins share nearly identical genes compared with those fraternally born whose inheritance is more differentiated.

A July 2011 study from Archives of General Psychiatry looked at 192 sets of twins in California to test this theory. In each pair one twin was autistic. The study compared rates between identical and fraternal twins. The researchers reported fraternal pairs were just as likely to be autistic. Gestation and early childhood environmental influences appeared to be as influential as genetic makeup, the report said, although it did not pinpoint what those early influences might be.

However, other researchers appear to be closing some of the gaps of our understanding of the ecology of autism and ADHD.

A March 2011 study from NeuroToxicology provides evidence of a chemical poisoning link to autism and ADHD. Dr Amir Miodovnik at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, and colleagues showed children who had been exposed to high levels of phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA) prenatally were more likely to show social impairment at seven to nine years of age&mdash displaying the kinds of functioning seen in these as well as other conditions. Both of these chemicals are ubiquitous in the environment, found in many products, and both are endocrine disruptors that affect brain activity in this study, the phthalate esters adversely impacted social behavior in adolescent inner-city children. &ldquoPrenatal exposure to endocrine disruptors has the potential to impact early brain development. Neurodevelopmental toxicity in utero may manifest as psychosocial deficits later in childhood. Prenatal phthalate exposure was associated with childhood social impairment in a multi-ethni urban population. Even mild degrees of impaired social functioning in otherwise healthy individuals can have very important adverse effects over a child&rsquos lifetime. These results extend our previous finding of atypical neonatal and early childhood behaviors in relation to prenatal phthalate exposure.&rdquo

Common Pesticides And Neurological Miswiring

In other words, chemicals to which the unborn child was exposed could have been causing neurological miswiring. But the linkages don&rsquot stop with this study. In the journal Pediatrics, Harvard University researchers found a link between commonly observed levels of chemical pesticides and ADHD in children 8 to 15 years of age. &ldquoThese findings support the hypothesis that organophosphate exposure, at levels common among US children, may contribute to ADHD prevalence.&rdquo

Getting Out Pesticides

According to the National Autism Association, 190 publications examined environmental toxicant exposures in autism and 170, or 89% found an association. Most doctors dealing with children or adults with ADHD or autism would not think of measuring for organophosphate pesticides or heavy metals or know what to do if the levels were high, notes detoxification researcher Michael Wisner whose work with Megan Shields, MD, led to published studies on release of chemical toxins in occupationally exposed workers using therapeutic sauna. Their work showed neurological symptoms declined with lessening the poisons in workers. Wisner, a member of the HealthyLivinG magazine advisory board, recommends saunas as a part of therapy for children or adults dealing with neurotoxicity. His views are shared by other experts

His views are shared by other experts. Autism, ADHD and Asperger&rsquos syndrome are conditions that respond to infrared sauna therapy, according to Rachel West, DO, of Los Angeles, California. Dr West combines therapies and modalities with diet and nutrition, and uses infrared sauna with children and adults.

Sweat Out Poisons

&ldquoWe do the same kind of detox for kids as we do for adults,&rdquo Dr West told HealthyLivinG. &ldquoMany chemical toxins are secreted via the skin and perspiration. Our skin is our largest detoxification organ, after all. Detoxification, in this sense, is perfect for special needs kids. The nice thing is that far infrared actually penetrates at cellular levels so it will help clean out organ tissues and disconnect cells from toxins that may be blocking pathways and at very low heat, which is safe for children.&rdquo

Sauna For Repetitive Movement

Some conditions set in as early as three years of age and she works with parents to teach them how to be with their child in the sauna. For example, she recommends reading them a story. Many kids&rsquo bodies are so toxic they are building up lactic acid, which can cause them to engage in repetitive movement, often associated with autism. &ldquoThe lactic acid makes kids feel like they want a massage and the saunas feel great on their joints and muscles,&rdquo she says. &ldquoAnd keep in mind it isn&rsquot the heat that counts, but the penetration that can occur at low heat. We see oxygenation of cells and better sleep. Since sauna restores and calms the nervous system and heat is nurturing, many parents have their kids take a sauna in preparation for bedtime or before their evening bath or shower.&rdquo

A recent report says infrared sauna &ldquoincreased excretion with sweat fluid of toxic substances (lead, thiuram, captax, sulphenamide C) that penetrated the body during work. Sauna is recommended as an effective procedure in conditions where chemical and physical factors are the leading professional noxae.&rdquo

Infrared is cited frequently as the preferred sauna in most recent studies. Innovative full spectrum infrared technology allows users to program for specific benefits including lower blood pressure, detoxification, weight loss, pain relief and more. Saunas with LED screens allow the user to choose detoxification, heart, weight loss and other programs as well as monitor themselves with an online site. In a 2005 clinical study by the University of Missouri, Kansas City, Solocarbon heaters were shown to lower blood pressure through a program of 30 minute infrared sauna sessions three times per week. The study concluded that infrared sauna therapy with Solocarbon technology dilated blood vessels and reduced the volume of their inner lining, thus increasing circulation.

The heat generated by an infrared sauna produces sweat that contains more toxins per unit, which is why experts say its use can be more effective. In a clinical study Solocarbon was shown to raise the core body temperature to over 100 °F.

As a result regular usage can surface a deeply detoxifying sweat where some of the hidden poisons reside. (However, sauna should never be used during pregnancy or without consulting a doctor.)

Take Action Before Conception

The jury is still out as to how influential environment is upon the genetics of such sufferers. But putting together the pieces suggests that parents can actually do something about preventing these conditions in their offspring. For those men and women who expect to have children, doing a preconception detox with infrared sauna makes sense, says Wisner who has overseen hundreds of couples who&rsquove become infrared sauna users just for this purpose. As for children and adults already afflicted with conditions, one can see effects lessened with detoxification of chemicals, he adds.

Watch the video: Ask the Expert: ADHD in Preschoolers: What to Look For and How to Help (August 2022).