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Welcome to PSR's Environmental Health Policy Institute, where we ask questions -- then we ask the experts to answer them. Join us as physicians, health professionals, and environmental health experts share their ideas, inspiration, and analysis about toxic chemicals and environmental health policy.


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How does the environment influence brain development? What are the exposures of greatest concern? What is the latest science and how can we translate that science into protective public health policy?

Posted by Barbara Gottlieb on April 9, 2012

The process of brain development defines us as human beings. However, its complexity (the creation and differentiation of over 80 billion neurons in the adult brain) and duration (beginning at conception and lasting decades) make us vulnerable to the effects of environmental factors. With the proliferation of industrial chemicals in the environment has come an increasing awareness of the sometimes-subtle impact that environmental factors have on the human brain. How to understand, quantify, and prevent such neurodevelopmental damage is the subject of this month’s Environmental Health Policy Institute.


Perspectives on Estimating the Population Burden of Children’s Exposures to Environmental Chemicals
David C. Bellinger, MD

Toxins and the Brain
David O. Carpenter, MD

Environmental Influences on Neurodevelopment: An Overview
I. Leslie Rubin, MD

Harvey Wiley's Contemporary Vision
Bernard Weiss, PhD

The views expressed in these essays are those of their respective authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Physicians for Social Responsibility.


joejoe said ..

I see that there are many toxins listed that could alter/damage the brain, however those toxins injected directly would have to be on top of the list like vaccines which have msg,dna,mercury still in flu shot administered to pregnat woman,aluminum, there are many studies out there that show a link, we must make safer vaccines, and administer only the most important in order to cut down on toxicity to the brain.

June 5, 2013
Amanda Porter said ..

Comparing trespassing on my bodily functions to on my property was apt. I thought you were going to list the products that do so, but perhaps it is too long.

April 30, 2012
Jan Marquart said ..

It is overwhelming to find out that formaldehyde is in just about everything. Although the MSDS states that formaldehyde is odorless, it isn't. I can smell it and so can many of my friends who have been inhaling it for decades. Formaldehyde is a dangerous toxin. Pres. Obama has restricted the amount of formaldehyde in wooden products but that is just the beginning. It is a carcinogen and a neurological disaster.

April 17, 2012
Marsha Honn Wiedle, Ph.D. said ..

I enjoyed all the articles, but would like to add that products like fabric softener contain hazardous waste chemicals. Our daily care, cleaning and other products like perfume/cologne also contain chemicals adverse to our brains/bodies. I hope to see more pressure put on the major chemical companies in regards to these products. Not to mention herbicides and pesticides. Thanks for all your work.

April 12, 2012
Ronald C. Kent said ..

Hi: I am concerned with the failure of EPA to ban 2-4D recently. Haven't the Swedes done so? Also, in my state of Wisconsin I have fought for years to get the state to adopt ACGIH standards for public sector inspectors to use in schools and all public employment-to no avail. Does anyone care about the hazards that are going on with no standards and remedies to keep children and the public safe. I urge you to consider this terrible threat over many states with no protection or enforcement with ACGIH standards. Peace and good luck! my e-mail is

April 11, 2012
Larry Fink said ..

The scientific and regulatory policy question to ask is not by what mechanism does this toxic mixture scramble one's brains at parts per million, billion, or trillion concentrations but by what mechanism is the brain protected from such scrambling at those concentrations. If you don't know, the proper response is to minimize exposure, not to study the problem until one has scientific certitude as to the consequences from exposure. Uncertainty should always work to the benefit of people over profit. That's not the way the game is set up to be played now, but nobody says we have to continue to play by their rules. Trespass upon my property, and that is a crime in and of itself. I don't have to prove you did any damage in the process. The act of trespass is the harm. Yet, when a chemical trespasses into my body, I have to prove harm from the trespass. I want the same protection as my property. I want to be able to stand my ground against an assault upon my uncontaminated person, because it is an existential threat to my health and life by definition. Granted I may not drop dead immediately, but my right to health and life have been compromised by changing future probabilities of diseases and premature death. If someone holds a gun to your head with one bullet and 5 empty chambers, you still feel threatened, no matter how well randomized the distribution of the bullet in the chamber or how many others are sharing equally in the experience. Same for one bullet in 60, 600, 6000, 60,000, 600,000, and 6,000,000 chambers. If you don't want to play Russian Roulette for somebody else's profit, you shouldn't have to. At least compensate me directly for each time you pull the trigger, rather than tell me I am being compensated every day by the wonders of modern technology, so those who profit by shifting the costs of testing and waste management from them to me claim to owe me nothing. Now that's a Faustian bargain up with which I will no longer put.

April 11, 2012

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