• The top ten chemicals suspected of causing ADHD and other learning disabilities.
  • The top ten chemicals suspected of causing ADHD and other learning disabilities.
  • The top ten chemicals suspected of causing ADHD and other learning disabilities.

A recent editorial published in the renowned journal Environmental Health Perspectives is calling for increased research into possible environmental and other epigenetic causes for neurodevelopmental disorders in the children of the USA. What was especially interesting about the editorial however, was the inclusion of a list of 10 chemicals which are considered very probably a contributing factor to these conditions.

The editorial, written by Phillip Landrigan, MD, MSc and the Director of the Children’s Environmental Health Center (CEHC) at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and co-authored by Loca Lambertini, PhD, MPH, MSc, and Assistant Professor of Preventative Medicine at Mount Sinai, as well as Linda Birnbaum, Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

The editorial found its origins at a conference hosted by the CEHC in late 2010.

ADHD Causing Chemicals

The National Academy of Sciences reports that three percent of neurobehavioral disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as well as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and opposition defiance disorder (ODD) among many others are cause by toxic exposures at the environmental level and that an additional 25 percent are attributable to epigenetics, or the interaction between environmental factors and genetics.

But the precise environmental causes still elude academics, and as such spawned the editorial. Genetic research has indicated that ADHD and other neurodevelopmental disorders certainly contain hereditary components, many experts also purport that environmental causes also play a role.

A large number of the chemicals in widest use have not undergone even minimal assessment of potential toxicity and this is of great concern, says Dr. Landrigan. Knowledge of environmental causes of neurodevelopmental disorders is critically important because they are potentially preventable.

The Top Ten

The CEHC compiled a list of ten chemicals that are still found in consumer products that experts suspect may contribute to ADHD and other learning disabilities in order to guide research and help parents guard against potentially preventable environmental causes. The list of chemicals include:

  1. Lead (found in paint in some older buildings and soil in urban areas)
  2. Methylmercury (found in some fresh and saltwater fish)
  3. PCBs (old Monsanto cooling fluids)
  4. Organophosphate pesticides (73 million pounds used in agricultural and residential settingsin the US every year)
  5. Organochlorine pesticides (13 billion pounds was produced in 1985 and can still be detected in the food supply today)
  6. Endocrine disruptors (corticosteroids and many industrial runoffs) 
  7. Automotive exhaust 
  8. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (byproducts of fuel burning) 
  9. Brominated flame retardants (most commercialized chemical flame retardants) 
  10. Perfluorinated compounds (used extensively for food packaging)

In addition to this editorial, a paper by researchers at the University of California-Davis in the same journal demonstrated that PCBs can disrupt early brain development.

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