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In Harm's Way: Toxic Threats to Child Development Project



Addressing Toxic Chemical Influences on Developmental Disabilities

Learning, behavioral and developmental disabilities including Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and autism prevent our children from reaching their full human potential. Seventeen percent of children in the United States have been diagnosed with one or more developmental disabilities. These disorders have widespread societal implications, from health and education costs to the repercussions of criminal behavior. 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. Human exposure to neurotoxic substances is widespread. A review of the top twenty chemicals reported released under the 2000 Toxics Release Inventory reveals that nearly half are known or suspected neurotoxicants. Over 2 billion pounds of these neurotoxic chemicals were released on-site by facilities into the air, land or water. As our knowledge about these neurotoxic chemicals has increased, the "safe" threshold of exposure has been continuously revised downward. Toxic exposures deserve special scrutiny because they are preventable causes of harm.

In 1998 GBPSR launched the project In Harm's Way: Toxic Threats to Child Development to address this important issue.


Project Phases:

Phase I: Report and Initial Education Campaign

Phases II-III: Training Programs for Health Professionals

  • Subsequently, GBPSR developed a training program and associated educational materials to educate health care providers on the linkages between environmental contaminants and neurodevelopmental disabilities. To date 7 full day CME courses have been held at major medical centers around the country, and over 250 shorter presentations have been given around the country and internationally.

    Training Materials and Training Programs for Health Professionals


Facts of Concern

  • FACT:  According to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 17% of children under 18 in the U.S. have one or more developmental disabilities.
  • FACT:  Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is considered a common syndrome that affects 3-6% of all school children. Ongoing studies suggest the incidence may be much higher.
  • FACT:  Some commonly used pesticides cause lifelong hyperactivity in rodents exposed to a single small amount on a critical day of brain development.
  • FACT:  Fetal mercury exposure may impair learning, memory, and attention in children as they grow older.
  • FACT:  IQ deficits in adolescent children are linked to fetal PCB exposure.

(FACTs are referenced in the report In Harm's Way: Toxic Threats to Child Development)

 

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