Why are so many kids being diagnosed with ADHD, Autism, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Conduct Disorder, Dyslexia and PDDNOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified)?
A growing amount of research is attributing this trend to the environment. Toxins interrupt the healthy development of children by impacting on nutrition, affecting levels of academic achievement, social activity and behaviour. These toxins have been studied since the 1970s, but the revelations are just coming to light. Grandjean and Landrigan say that more neurotoxicants remain undiscovered. If we are to start preventing these disorders, we need to be aware of them.
To Inform Yourself:
Book: Slow Death By Rubber Duck is a light-hearted look at common toxicities by environmental scientists Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie, who offer solutions on how we can avoid them. The sequel, Toxin Toxout – Getting Harmful Chemicals Out of Our Bodies and Our Worlds focuses on more solutions.
Common Environmental Toxins and How Best to Avoid Them
Increasing numbers of studies are correlating childhood developmental problems with chemicals that are found in our homes, water, food and air. These chemicals are capable of drastically changing children’s lives. They can cause damage to brain development, contributing to a ‘silent pandemic’ of mental deficits that is eroding intelligence, disrupting behaviors, and damaging societies. Signs of real strain are appearing as schools and families are trying to cope with the extra needs of children. Up to 75 per cent of couples who have a significantly affected child, have relationship break-ups.
- LEAD – Many children’s toys still are made with lead products! Lead also makes it into our drinking water. Water and soil sources are still contaminated by lead because of improper disposal. Lead in children is linked to low IQ. There is no safe level of exposure.
Symptoms of lead toxicity: Low IQ, behavioural problems, attention problems, hearing problems, kidney damage, delayed physical growth, aggressive behavior, difficulty sleeping, headaches, irritability, low appetite, energy, and reduced sensations.
What Can Be Done? Use a good quality water filter, buy organic food, check your water pipes, avoid old paint, buy unpainted wooden toys, be aware of sources of lead in your environment.
- MERCURY – Fish containing high levels of mercury, such as tuna, can affect neurological development of the foetus. One form of mercury, ‘thiomersal’ is used in some vaccines. Silver fillings (amalgams) from the dentist contain mercury. Toxicity from amalgams can be passed to the growing foetus.
Symptoms of mercury toxicity: Developmental defects in children such as cerebral palsy and skeletal issues, where the growth of the head is limited.
What Can Be Done? Limit the amount of fish intake and avoid deep-sea fish. Anchovies and sardines absorb less mercury. Ask your dentist for non-mercury fillings.
- POLYCHLORINATED BIPHENYLS (PCB’s) – are chemicals used in coolant fluids, electrical apparatus, cutting fluids for machining operations, and carbonless copy paper. PCB production was banned by the United States Congress in 1979. After PCBs were banned, they were marketed with over 100 different trade names. PCBs are listed under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants for phasing out and eventual elimination. PCBs are associated with reduced cognitive function in toddlers and young children. Due to improper disposal in landfills and incineration, PCBs recycling methods allow them to remain in the environment. They can be found in foods such as fish, and in breast milk. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set a 0% safety level for all drinking water, but have raised this to 0.05% due to the amount in our hydrosphere.
What Can Be Done? Eat organically grown food. Use a good quality water filter.
- ARSENIC – is used as a wood preservative and in some drug and body products. The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) warns that Arsenic is still being released through different agricultural applications and is still found in water supplies.
Symptoms of Arsenic toxicity: Reduced cognitive function in schoolchildren.
What Can Be Done?: Avoid insecticides, use organic body care products, avoid treated wood in food-growing areas and playgrounds. Wash hands before eating.
- TOLUENE – is a solvent found in paints, thinners, silicone sealants, rubber, printing ink, glues, lacquers and disinfectants. The EPA warns: “The highest concentrations of toluene occur in indoor air from the use of common household products including synthetic fragrances, nail polish, cigarette smoke and children’s craft glues.
Symptoms of Toluene Toxicity: Toluene directly affects the brain and spinal cord. Maternal exposure has been linked to brain development problems and attention deficits in children.
What Can Be Done? Buy inks glues and eco paints with low or no VOCs (volatile organic compounds). Use Toluene-containing products in open air. Wear a mask and gloves when handling and wash hands after use. Use natural essential oils instead of perfumes. Check labels for ‘fragrance’. Use natural products like vinegar, soda bicarbonate and specially made cloths for cleaning.
- MANGANESE – Causes health issues in excess. It is found in engine exhaust fumes.
Symptoms of manganese toxicity: Difficult learning and memorising. It is linked to lower scores in mathematics, diminished intellectual function, ADHD and sperm damage.
What Can Be Done? Avoid spending time in high traffic areas. Choose recreation locations away from traffic pollution.
- FLUORIDE – is a naturally occurring mineral in the environment, including tea, wine, raisins, potatoes, lamb and carrots. It is added to water supplies by governments around the world. Fluoride levels are not checked in the general population. Fluoride is detrimental to brain development.
Symptoms of fluoride toxicity: Lowered IQ in children. High levels can lead to autism spectrum disorders and other mental issues.
What Can Be Done? Iodine helps to protect against high fluoride levels. Ensure an iodine-rich diet -with seafood and seaweeds. Have iodine levels checked by your health professional. Use unfluoridated, spring, or a high quality filter for your water supply. Not all water filters remove fluoride. Have levels checked with an integrative doctor. Have regular dentist visits.
PESTICIDES and DDT – Insecticides banned internationally in the 1970s are still used in developing countries to control malaria. Humans ingest DDT from fruits and vegetables. DDT is endemic in our environment, with evidence of DDT residues from the North to South Poles.
Symptoms of DDT toxicity: Neurodevelopmental disorders of the brain. Alzheimer’s disease.
What Can Be Done? Drink filtered water, eat organic or home- grown food. Take protective supplements like vitamin C.
- TETRACHLOROETHYLENE – found in dry cleaning liquids, spot removers, paint strippers and engine degreasers. When tested, nurses, chemists, cleaners, hairdressers, and beauticians have higher levels. Disposal contaminates soil and water.
Symptoms of tetrachloroethylene toxicity: Hyperactivity, aggressive behaviour, increased risk of psychiatric diagnosis.
What Can Be Done? Buy clothes that you can launder at home, avoid dry cleaning and using industrial chemicals. Read labels and find alternative products. Keep women of child-bearing age and children well away from tetrachloroethylene-containing products.
- POLYBROMINATEDDIPHENYL ETHERS (PBDEs) – PBDEs are used internationally in flame retardanges, soft furnishings, televisions and computers, insulation, carpet, furniture fabrics, foam products, mattresses, upholstery and internal fittings of motor vehicles. Approximately 80 different types of brominated flame retardants are used commercially. Mothers can pass high levels of the toxin to children through their breast milk.
Symptoms of exposure to PDDEs: PDBEs are believed to be neurotoxins. Prenatal exposure has been linked to neurodevelopmental disorders in children. Children with high levels of PBDE showed consistent developmental delays from birth until age six.
What Can be Done? While it is not possible to avoid exposure, it is possible to minimise exposure. Purchase eco bedding (suppliers are on the increase) and avoid foam products. Use recycled materials when renovating. Insist on frequent hand washing before eating in children. Drink plenty of filtered water. A diet rich in vitamin C and healthy gut flora aids the excretion of toxins.