Toxic Chemicals and Intellectual Disabilities in the USA

Some time ago I read a paper that detailed figures that the intellectual level of American school children was declining dramatically - while disabilities, such as autism and ADD were greatly increasing. I cannot find that paper now but consider the implications of the two following reports for America's future. A scary thought that the average American IQ may someday drop to the level of their president.

Don Maisch

MessageSubject: Toxic Chemicals and Intellectual Disabilities--A Summit

August 18, 2003 Contact: Anna Prabhala
202-387-1968, Ext 212


Disability and environmental experts meet to discuss current scientific knowledge and chart prevention strategies

Washington, DC (August 18, 2003)-We know a great deal about the
environment and developmental disabilities, but surprisingly, there's
much more we don't know-about how chemicals and toxins present in the air we breathe and the food we eat contribute to the occurrence of intellectual disabilities. We know even less about the effects of toxic exposure on the lives of the people who currently live with an
intellectual disability. At present, 1 in every 50 Americans lives with
mental retardation. That's why the American Association on Mental
Retardation (AAMR) brought together a group of concerned environmental and disability experts, and self-advocates from July 22-24 at the historic Wingspread conference center in Racine, Wisconsin, to find answers to one critical concern: how do we reduce the unnecessary occurrence of mental retardation and related disabilities caused by environmental toxins and pollutants?

Doreen Croser, Executive Director of AAMR explains the significance of Pollutants, Toxic Chemicals and Mental Retardation: A National Summit-"AAMR firmly believes that dignity, service, and support must be afforded to every person with mental retardation, and the Association is also committed to preventing the unnecessary occurrence of this disability, given its staggering emotional impact on families and health costs to society. The Wingspread summit helped catalyze collaborations between the environmental and the developmental disability networks, and create a shared national agenda regarding known and suspected neurotoxicants."

Environmental pollutants and mental retardation is a serious public concern for several reasons. Scientific evidence shows that learning, developmental, or behavioral disabilities are on the rise in the United States. This rise in disabilities is paralleled by the increase in the number of chemicals being manufactured and used today. Since the petrochemical industry began around World War II, approximately 80,000 new synthetic chemicals have been approved for use and of the 15,000 most commonly found chemicals today, the vast majority have not been tested individually for human health impacts and none have been tested in combination. It is a proven fact that environmental factors, including chemicals and nutrition significantly affect brain development. However, while the impacts of lead, mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), alcohol, and smoking on mental retardation and related developmental disabilities have been addressed, there is very little information on most chemicals. Further, most industrial chemicals to which people are regularly exposed from consumer products or as environmental contaminants have not undergone neurodevelopmental testing.

Elise Miller, Executive Director of the Institute for Children's Environment Health points out, "Mental retardation and other developmental disabilities are widespread and given what we know about the impact of toxic chemicals on brain development, it is time we conduct more research on environmental contributors to these neurological problems and implement effective public policy procedures to prevent exposures in the first place."

Apart from industrial chemicals, the AAMR Wingspread summit also featured candid discussions on pesticides and current federal regulations, and how the build up of mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins, flame retardants and other toxic chemicals in fish and other seafood affect current toxicity levels in the environment and the incidence of developmental disabilities.

Later this year, AAMR will publish a report on the Wingspread summit highlighting a national research and policy vision for a world free of toxins and pollutants. The report will also contain proceedings from the summit and papers presented. To receive a copy of the Wingspread report upon publication, email your request to books@aamr.org .

To read more on the Wingspread summit, including a complete list of participating organizations and papers presented, visit

The Wingspread summit was sponsored by The John Merck Fund and the Johnson Foundation. The summit was also supported by the Arc of the United States Research Fund and the Association of University Centers on Disabilities.

Founded in 1876, the mission of AAMR is to promote progressive policies, sound research, effective practices, and universal human rights for people with intellectual disabilities. To find out more, visit http://www.aamr.org .

Pesticide Action Network Updates Service


Toxic Pesticides Above "Safe" Levels in Many U.S. Residents

May 11, 2004

Many U.S. residents carry toxic pesticides in their bodies above government assessed "acceptable" levels, according to Chemical Trespass: Pesticides in Our Bodies and Corporate Accountability a report released today by Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) and partner groups in more than 20 cities. Analyzing pesticide-related data collected by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on levels of chemicals in 9,282 people nationwide, the report reveals that government and industry have failed to safeguard public health from pesticide exposures.

"None of us choose to have hazardous pesticides in our bodies," said Kristin Schafer of PANNA and lead author of the report. "Yet CDC found pesticides in 100% of the people who had both blood and urine tested. The average person in this group carried a toxic cocktail of 13 of the 23 pesticides we analyzed."

Many of the pesticides found in the test subjects have been linked to serious short- and long-term health effects including infertility, birth defects and childhood and adult cancers. "While the government develops safety levels for each chemical separately, this study shows that in the real world we are exposed to multiple chemicals simultaneously," explained Margaret Reeves, of PANNA. "The synergistic effects of multiple exposures are unknown, but a growing body of research suggests that even at very low levels, the combination of these chemicals can be harmful to our health."

Chemical Trespass found that children, women and Mexican Americans shouldered the heaviest "pesticide body burden." For example, children -- the population most vulnerable to pesticides -- are exposed to the highest levels of nerve-damaging organophosphorous (OP) pesticides. The CDC data show that the average 6 to11 year-old sampled is exposed to the OP pesticide chlorpyrifos at four times the level U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) considers "acceptable" for long-term exposure. Chlorpyrifos, produced principally by Dow Chemical Corporation and found in numerous products such as Dursban™, is designed to kill insects by disrupting the nervous system. Although U.S. EPA restricted chlorpyrifos for most residential uses in 2000, it continues to be used widely in agriculture and other settings. In humans, chlorpyrifos is also a nerve poison, and has been shown to disrupt hormones and interfere with normal development of the nervous system in laboratory animals.

The report also found that women have significantly higher levels of three of the six organochlorine (OC) pesticides evaluated. These pesticides are known to cross the placenta during pregnancy with multiple harmful effects including disruption of brain development, which can lead to learning disabilities and other neurobehavioral problems, as well as reduced infant birth weight. This ability of organochlorine pesticides to pass from mother to child puts future generations at serious risk.

PAN's analysis found that Mexican Americans carry dramatically higher body burdens of five of the 17 evaluated pesticides in urine samples, including a breakdown product of methyl parathion, a neurotoxic, endocrine-disrupting insecticide. Mexican Americans also had significantly higher body burdens of the breakdown products of the insecticides lindane and DDT than those found in other ethnic groups.

Chemical Trespass argues that pesticide manufacturers are primarily responsible for the problem of pesticide body burden. "The pesticides we carry in our bodies are made and aggressively promoted by agrochemical companies," stated Skip Spitzer at PANNA. "These companies also spend millions on political influence to block or undermine regulatory measures designed to protect public health and the environment." The report introduces the Pesticide Trespass Index (PTI), a new tool for quantifying responsibility of individual pesticide manufacturers for their "pesticide trespass." Using the PTI, the report estimates that Dow Chemical is responsible for at least 80% of the chlorpyrifos breakdown products found in the bodies of those in the U.S.

Chemical Trespass offers a series of recommendations. The U.S. Congress should investigate corporate responsibility and liability for pesticide body burdens and develop financial mechanisms to shift health and environmental costs of pesticides to the corporations that produce them. U.S. EPA should ban pesticides known to be hazardous and pervasive in the environment and our bodies including immediate phase outs of all uses of chlorpyrifos and lindane. U.S. EPA should also require that manufacturers bear the burden of proof for demonstrating that a pesticide does not harm human health before it can be registered. Working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. EPA should promote least-toxic pest control methods. Individuals should pressure government officials and corporations to implement these changes while seeking alternatives to pesticide use and buying organic products whenever possible.

Chemical Trespass: Pesticides in Our Bodies and Corporate Accountability is available on the PANNA website at http://www.panna.org. The report's executive summary is also available in Spanish and French.


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Mai 2004

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