Report Links Common Chemicals to Behavioral and Learning Disabilities

Dec. 28, 2000
Representatives from Clean Water Fund and Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) participated in the release of In Harm's Way, a new national report linking chemicals widely used by industry and at home to developmental disabilities, including behavioral and learning disabilities. These chemicals are toxic to the developing brain and can lead to hyperactivity, attention deficit, lower IQ and motor skill impairment.

Among the chemicals evaluated in this groundbreaking study are metals lead, mercury, cadmium, and manganese; pesticides; dioxins and PCBs; solvents used in gasoline, paints, glues, and cleaning solutions; and nicotine and alcohol.

The report found that one million children in the United States currently exceed the accepted level above which lead affects behavior and cognition. The report also found that more than 80 percent of adults and 90 percent of children in the United States have residues of one or more harmful pesticides in their bodies.

"It is critical that we understand and, as a matter of public policy, address the impact of these neurotoxic chemicals on developmental and learning disabilities," said Dr. Ted Schettler, a practicing physician and one of the report's co-authors. "The urgency of this issue is underscored by the fact that between 5 and 10 percent of school children in America have learning disabilities and at least an equivalent amount have ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)."

Robert Wendelgass, Pennsylvania Director of Clean Water Fund commented, "The concerns raised by this report suggest the need for a new precautionary approach that protects the health of future generations by reducing exposure to these neurotoxicants." He added, "One place we can start is by passing state legislation that would reduce the use of pesticides in our schools, making sure that the school environment doesn't put our children in harm's way."

Steps can be taken immediately to help prevent disabilities arising from exposure to these chemicals," said Robert K. Musil, Ph.D., CEO and Executive Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility. "Prevention is possible and it's the right thing to do."

The full text of the report is available online at

SOURCE: Clean Water Fund

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