Will chemical poisoning create an underclass of humanity never seen before?

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Will chemical poisoning create an underclass of humanity never seen before?

Remember Thalidomide, and other poisonings in the past, looks like we are on the edge of a massive pandemic of dysfunctional and disabled humanity. The casualties of a world where chemicals dominate our lives.

Millions of children may have suffered brain damage as a result of industrial pollution, scientists will say today.

American and Danish researchers describe a "silent pandemic" of disorders including autism, attention deficit syndrome, mental retardation and cerebral palsy caused by chemical pollution.

In a report, they identified 202 industrial chemicals that could damage the brain. They called for tighter controls although other scientists accused the study's authors of scaremongering and a "gross over-statement".

Dr Philippe Grandjean, from the Department of Environmental Medicine at the University of Southern Denmark in Winslowparken said the brain was such a vulnerable organ that even limited damage could have serious consequences.

Most chemicals, even those known to be toxic, were not regulated to protect the developing brain.

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Only a few substances, such as lead and mercury, are controlled with the purpose of protecting children. The 200 other chemicals that are known to be toxic to the human brain are not regulated to prevent adverse effects on the foetus or a small child.

Dr Grandjean and co-author Professor Philip Landrigan, from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, reviewed a range of scientific data sources to compile their evidence.

Five substances for which sufficient toxicity evidence exist were examined in detail - lead, methylmercury, arsenic, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and toluene.

In each case, the dangers came to light the same way.

Initially there was a recognition of high-dose toxicity in adults and records of isolated incidents of poisoning in children. This was followed by growing epidemiological evidence that lower levels of exposure in children led to behavioural defects.

The scientists said that identifying the effects of industrial chemical pollution was difficult because they might not produce symptoms for several years or even decades. The damage was not apparent in available health statistics.

Virtually all children born in industrialised countries between 1960 and 1980 were exposed to lead from petrol, said the researchers.

Based on what is known about the toxic effects of lead, this may have reduced IQ scores, shortened attention span, slowed motor co-ordination and heightened aggressiveness.

The report, to be published online today by The Lancet, said one in six children is thought to have some kind of developmental disability, usually involving the nervous system, and that developing brains are much more susceptible to toxic chemicals than those of adults.

The scientists concluded: "The combined evidence suggests that neuro-developmental disorders caused by industrial chemicals has created a silent pandemic in modern society."

In the EU, 100,000 chemicals were registered for commercial use in 1981. In the United States, 80,000 are registered.

Yet fewer than half had been subjected to even token laboratory testing, said the report.

In 80 per cent of cases there was no information about potential danger to children.

By netchicken: posted on 8-11-2006

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