Developmental Toxicity – Chemicals HARM Growing Brains

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Baby girl in an EEG cap
Centre for Brain Cognitive Development – School of Psychology

Have you seen the news?  

Developmental toxicity exposures, toxic and dangerous chemicals, are injuring the brain as it is growing and while laying down its pathways and connections. This is not new news!  In fact for many years now there has been more and more research on this area of concern; chemicals in our environment and how they are affecting us, our water, the animals, and life in the seas.  Now this recent report published in the Science Daily and Lancet provides further confirmation on the “Neurobehavioral Effects of Developmental Toxicity”.   Oh yes, indeed, developing brains are being injured by chemicals.

Controversial? Not So Much Anymore.

Now, there can be a fair amount of controversy over this and there are different schools of thought.  May I caution you to keep in mind something that may not be plainly obvious? The chemical manufacturer has a vested interest in protecting the wide use of chemicals like bisphenyl-A used in plastics, or Atrazine, a widely used agricultural pesticide.  Both of these chemicals are substantiated endocrine disruptors. This simply means that they can mimic hormones in our bodies and really mess with our body’s chemical balance.  Here’s an interesting fact I ran across, many of the European nations have banned Atrazine, yet it is still used here in the United States.  Makes ya’ wonder.


Raising The Red Flag
As far back as the spring of 2006, the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child has been raising the red flag on the poisonous effect of many chemicals on neurons and neural circuits of the brain and central nervous system.  Whether, we are talking pesticides, herbicides, rodenticides, or up to 80,000 industrial chemicals (the greater majority of which have not been tested), the facts keep coming in; chemicals are absolutely harmful to humans, the animal kingdom, and environmental health.   In this 2006 report, it said:

“The striking finding from extensive research on neurotoxins is the magnitude of devastation and lifelong impacts they can have on human brain development.”


Maybe A Wake-up Call?

I heartily recommend watching this video from the Environmental Working Group.  It will ‘shock and amaze’ you.  But remember, what we are saying here is that knowledge will be your powerful foundation in caring for and advocating for your special needs kiddos.

This is about 22 minutes long but I’m confident you will find it to be time well spent. If you don’t have time to watch it right now, skip on to the rest of the information. I also have this video included in this site’s Video Library page.


Does it surprise you to discover that more than 200 industrial chemicals have been found in umbilical cord blood? I’m guessing that you probably find that appalling!


Vulnerable Brains – That’s a No Brainer

The blood-brain barrier provides just a small measure of protection during the life of a child in the uterus. The placenta will not prevent chemicals from passing into the baby’s blood. And, sadly it is widely known that many environmental chemicals make it into mother’s milk and is transferred to our children when they breast-feed. (Not a reason, though, to not nurse one’s child. It is a reason to eat well, organically, wherever possible and to be careful when using household chemicals or working with them in your employment and NO alcoholic beverages while you are pregnant.)  So the point at this stage of a child’s life?  The fetus just isn’t well protected against industrial chemicals, they are very vulnerable, and that is scary.


Recent ‘Bottom Line’

The bottom line made in this March 2014 report is as the doctors have said:

“… the developing human brain is exceptionally sensitive to injury caused by toxic chemicals, and several developmental processes have been shown to be highly vulnerable to chemical toxicity. For example:

• In-vitro studies suggest that neural stem cells are very sensitive to neurotoxic substances such as methylmercury.
• Some pesticides inhibit cholinesterase function in the developing brain, thereby affecting the crucial regulatory role of acetylcholine before synapse formation.
• Early-life epigenetic changes are also known to affect subsequent gene expression in the brain.

In summary, industrial chemicals known or suspected to be neurotoxic to adults are also likely to present risks to the developing brain.”



Because of improved tests for chemical exposures and methods to analyze the brain and brain activity, the gap has been closed and the evidence is compelling!  Here is another alarming statement from this 2014 report:

“Exposures in early life to developmental neurotoxicants are now being linked to specific clinical syndromes in children.  For example, an increased risk of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder has been linked to prenatal exposures to manganese, organophosphates, and phthalates.  Phthalates have also been linked to behaviors that resemble components of autism spectrum disorder.  Prenatal exposure to automotive air pollution in California, USA, has been linked to an increased risk for autism spectrum disorder.”


More Evidence from the Doctor’s Report
Now, this article recently published in both, the Harvard School of Public Health, Science Daily, February 2014, and the March 2014 Volume 13 Issue 3 of The Lancet Neurology journals, further substantiates this issue of harmful chemical exposures. There is no room for doubt as the epidemiological studies since 2006 continue to substantiate that there is a “Growing number of chemicals linked with brain disorders in children.”

The authors, doctors, Phillipe Grandjean and Philip J. Landrigan, both Medical Doctors (MDs), stated the following:

“Strong evidence exists that industrial chemicals widely disseminated in the environment are important contributors to what we have called the global, silent pandemic of neurodevelopmental toxicity (italics ours). The developing human brain is uniquely vulnerable to toxic chemical exposures, and major windows of developmental vulnerability occur in utero and during infancy and early childhood. 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.”


Perhaps you remember this interview with Dr. Sanjay Gupta on CNN. The point that is startling is that there has been a significant rise in diagnosis for autism.  And in this video one of the professionals who comments includes chemical exposures as one of the “possible” reasons.


Why Is This Important To Me… and For You
Because our children are being harmed by something so pervasive in our world, chemical use, and  sadly these exposures are not being widely talked about.   There are things that we can do which I discuss at the conclusion of this article.

My background, having worked as an Industrial Hygienist for OSHA gives me a unique perspective into this subject.   I saw many workplace exposures to industrial chemicals and people were being seriously injured when their chemical exposures were over the OSHA regulation’s Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs), sometimes even below these levels because OSHA standards lagged behind industry science.

EPA has established many environmental Recommended Exposure Limits (RELs) too. OSHA seeks to protect the employee but it is EPA’s mandate to protect the public. So, being sensitive to chemical exposures has played a large part in my professional career and I feel that my background and knowledge base gives me a unique perspective on this sad situation involving our children.


So Now What?
Do you feel a sense of dread over all of this?  I mean after all isn’t that why the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) exists, to ensure that we are not exposed to chemicals that will harm our health and that of our children.  Unfortunately, neither the EPA or the FDA have always done stellar jobs in providing protection to the public.  (More on that in an upcoming blog.)

But over the years more and more research has been done.  So we don’t need to be stuck in a discouraged state of mind because there are things that you can do to reduce the effects of chemical exposures to the brain.   Besides the individual choices you make regarding your food and chemical use around the home and at work, it is also important to be well informed about what ‘early intervention’ is all about.   And we will be putting up a blog about ‘early intervention’ resources very soon as I believe it is a critical facet of our child’s success.


Are You Convinced?
What do you think? Is there enough information to be convinced that our children are being harmed by chemical exposures clear back to their early development in the womb?

While this is alarming,  it’s not all about chemical exposures.  We know that genetic factors do account for 30 – 40% of all cases of neurodevelopmental disorders such as the conditions of Down’s Syndrome, Fragile X, or Cystic Fibrosis.  Still it leaves 60 – 70% in a category that doesn’t have anything to do with genes at all.   And what science continues to substantiate is that chemical exposures are harming our children during their early formative development in the uterus and first years after birth when the brain is rapidly developing.

I have included some of these referenced articles in my Library in the Articles page.  When you are able to take time to read they will certainly empower you because of the having tapped into the MDs and Ph.Ds that are doing the research and striving to make policy changes to enhance the future of our children.

And if you don’t have the time, (believe me I know what a precious commodity time is) I hope you have found this post helpful.


What Should You Do Now

  • Reduce chemical exposures to yourself and your little ones by using the least toxic household cleaning methods and products (See brochure in Articles page;  Title:  Advancing Environmental Health in Childcare Settings,  a well-developed Canadian resource to help day care centers and the Canadian Health Inspectors of these facilities.  Note pages 5 – 7)
  • Improve how and what you eat.  Eat locally grown food when you can.  And remember organic is better; no pesticides, herbicides etc.
  • When pregnant do all you can to avoid using any kind of drug, over the counter or prescription, no alcoholic beverages, and only low or non-toxic cleaning products.  Often times the ‘greener’ the product, the less environmental and health impact it will have.
  • Be aware of air quality concerns;  high pollution days, no vehicles idling where a building’s air intakes are situated or adjacent to where children are playing.
  • Ensure little ones learn good hand washing techniques.  Its for more than reducing illness exposures, it reduces chemical exposures to what’s carried in dust and dirt too.
  • Eliminate the use of BPA products.  No white lined cans or drinking cups or bottles that are not BPA free.


We all agree that a well-developed healthy brain, not a dysfunctional brain, is the very foundation for our little one’s growth into their adult world. We want them to have the capacity to engage in their world, be employed, have fulfilling friendships and healthy marriages, to become balanced, yes even happy, well-balanced human beings.  That is our goal!  I hope that what we do together here through my site will help to make that goal more attainable for all of you!

Let me know if you have any questions and leave me a comment or email me:

Kind Regards,

10 Responses to “Developmental Toxicity – Chemicals HARM Growing Brains

  • Wow, besides feeling so sad to see that picture of that child your site looks amazing. I luv your cause.
    keep up the good work.


    • admin

      Hello Vernal. Yes it is sad to see what many special needs children tolerate. But having a good heart I’m guessing you’d be one of the folks that would help this lovely child keep her smile. Thanks for dropping in. I hope you will pass on this information to others you may know who would benefit. Its that word of mouth thing and folks can’t benefit from what I have to offer if they don’t know how to find me. “-) Thanks for your encouraging words!


  • Hi there,

    This is a great article. It made me quite sad actually, as I know it is very true. The harm that these chemicals cause young growing children is disgusting…

    As someone that used to work in a very high chemical workplace, I can understand the concern. Although I am in my 20’s and by no means still “growing”. I believe these chemicals can affect people of my age and older and still play a negative role on the adult population as well. Diseases and conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis and fibromyalgia can be caused due to chemical exposure.

    Thanks for bringing this to the table. And thankyou for the enlightening videos and links.

    All the best,

    • Linda

      Hello, Elsie!

      Yes, I do so understand how you feel. Sadness is also an emotion that surfaces for me because of the pervasive nature of this problem and because powers in the chemical and manufacturing industries make getting and keeping control of our personal health, well a challenge. We need strong laws requiring proper testing and environmental controls before use is allowed and disposal is permitted. And I am disappointed to say that these strong laws still do not exist.

      While this post is a focus on special needs children, you are absolutely correct in recognizing that there is a negative impact on the “adult population as well.” Studying and understanding the mechanisms behind illnesses like Multiple Schlerosis and fibromyalgia is critically important and is being done, but without adequate funding, it may be years before clear answers are finally discovered.

      If you have time you may want to check out my posts on micro-nutrients, macro-nutrients, and water quality concerns. If you have a question on any of this do let me know. Currently, I am preparing a post on the water quality concerns that will offer further insight and a viable solution folks may want to check into.

      Thank you very much for visiting my site today and taking time to leave a comment. I am glad you have found the videos and links held value for you, that you found them enlightening. “-)

      All the best to you, Elsie. Keep your head up and as Dorie says, “just keep swimming”. “-)

  • I’m very interested in the content on your site… special needs. I want to congratulate you on being an advocate… someone needs to speak out on their behalf.

    The need to educate people in general on the use of chemicals is huge. It is so important.

    You say we need to be aware to use BPA free products. In recent times I’ve heard that whatever they are using in BPA free is actually worse! I find that so scary.

    I really am at a loose end to know what is safe to use. It appears to me that the only way is to use no products whatsoever that come into contact with plastic of any kind!

    Do you happen to know anything about this? I may need to do some serious research and see if I can find out the answer.

    • Linda

      Hello Marilyn,

      I am very grateful for your question and of course for the words of encouragement. BPA is a very troubling, very nearly ubiquitous product in our world, the world of water and food. And because it is an endocrine disrupter it is very serious.

      You have brought up a very alarming concern that is not surprising. I don’t know about the point you have made that what they are using in BPA free items is supposed to be worse. I haven’t read this as I do my research. But, I am going to dig into this and very, very soon. It is important to me that my information is current and accurate. And as we learn and research new information becomes available and there will be times to do an update. Perhaps this will be one of those times.

      As soon as I find some answers regarding your question I promise to get back with you.

      Thank you for dropping into my site and reading this important post. I wish I could get the word out, far and wide. After years of working as an Industrial Hygienist with OSHA I am intimately familiar with chemical exposures and the harm they can bring. It makes me crazy to see how far ranging this problem is and the cascade affect it is having on our children.

      I’ll touch base again, hopefully sooner than later.


  • I really don’t like hearing this. Maybe all these mental conditions like ADHD and anxiety would be flushed down the drain if we stopped releasing these kind of chemicals. this is a lot like radiation isn’t it? I’ve heard of people getting headaches and stuff from that! I never knew these chemicals entered the mother’s milk though, that’s scary!

    Thank you so much for sharing this.

    Matt TheDopestMatrix

    • Linda

      Hello Matt.

      Yes this whole thing makes me a bit crazy inside. I’m more than a little convinced that the conditions you mentioned, and no doubt many more, are related to the exposures we are all sustaining because of poor management of chemical use in our world. You make an interesting connection with radiation exposures and one could certainly draw this conclusion because of how pervasive radiation is; certainly as a gamma exposure is concerned but beta too, because as a particle it can get into food and water and of course then into our system.

      Perhaps you will be able to benefit personally from this information, not just today but in the future too.

      I appreciate you coming by for a visit! And thank you for taking time to leave me a comment!


  • Very informative website, from time to time I’ve heard people talk about developmental toxicity and how bad it is. However, there are many people who claim that the toxicity in the water we drink and the animals we eat are not high enough to affect us in any way. However, I think it affects us all in some way or another, but it’s more obvious in some people than others.

    • Linda

      Hello Marvin,

      You are absolutely correct, there are some chemicals, like mercury, that do not get metabolized and removed rom our bodies so the toxicity of this chemical stays in the tissues of our bodies and in time with reoccuring exposures what happens is what is called in Industrial Hygiene circles, a “bilogical overload”. And then the body responds, often times with an auto-immune response that presents as hives or an allergy or inflammation and pain.

      Water is acutally one of th eways that low levels of exposure happen time after time after time, after all we should be drinking water, right? Here is a post I created addressing this very subject:

      I hope you find it useful.

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