Vol. 6, No. 3, 2000 Page 2&3

Physicians warn of `epidemic' of learning, behavior disorders due to toxins

Reviewing the growing body of evidence implicating toxins as a factor in learning and behavior problems (see related articles, Crime Times, 2000, Vol. 6, No. 1, Page 2; Crime Times, 1999, Vol. 5, No. 3, Page 1; Crime Times, 1998, Vol. 4, No. 4, Page 4 ), the Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility have issued a hard-hitting report charging that vast amounts of neurotoxins are being released into the air, soil, and water-and that children's brains and behavior are suffering as a result.

The organization notes, "An epidemic of developmental, learning, and behavioral disabilities has become evident among children," with nearly 12 million children-or 17% of the total population of American children-currently suffering from one or more of th hese disabilities. "These disorders," the group states, "have widespread societal implications, from health and education costs to the repercussions of criminal behavior." While learning and behavioral disorders can have genetic and social causes, the gro oup's report notes, "toxic exposures deserve special scrutiny because they are preventable causes of harm."

The report notes that over one billion pounds of neurotoxic chemicals are released directly by large U.S. industries, and that in their own state of Massachusetts, for example, "over half of the top twenty chemicals in use . and half of those incorporated d into products... are known or suspected neurotoxicants." The most dangerous toxins threatening American children's brains, the researchers say, include:

Additional chemicals linked to behavioral and learning problems, the physician group says, include nicotine, alcohol, manganese, dioxin, and organic solvents.

Even when genetic factors contribute to learning disabilities, hyperactivity, and behavior problems, the report notes, toxins may cause additional harm to vulnerable children. They point out, for instance, that two genes-one carried by 4 percent of the po opulation, and another carried by 30 to 40 percent-increase susceptibility to organophosphate pesticides.

The group calls for increased efforts to reduce children's toxic exposure, noting that "the historical record clearly reveals that our scientific understanding of the effects of toxic exposures is not sufficiently developed to accurately predict the impac ct of toxicants, and that our regulatory regime has failed to protect children."


"In Harm's Way-Toxic Threats to Child Development," report of the Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility, May 2000. Available for downloading at http://www.igc.org/psr/ihw.htm.

Related Article: [2002, Vol. 8]

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