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19 August 2005 | Printer friendly

Compromising our children: a WWF publication on chemical impacts

WWF publicationCompromising our Children Chemical Impacts on Children’s Intelligence, and Behaviour highlights that chemicals are seriously impacting on children’s intelligence.

This 2004 report brings together the latest research on the impacts of man-made chemicals to which we are all exposed. Disturbingly it reveals that the chemical levels found in some members of the general public are sufficient to harm children’s brain development and coordination.

The developing brain is particularly sensitive, because in humans the brain and nervous system develop over a long period of time, beginning in the womb and continuing through puberty. This means children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of chemicals that can derail normal brain development and function.

Studies have shown that brain development in children living in industrialised European countries has been affected by chemicals that have accumulated in their mothers and are passed on from the mother while the baby is in the womb.

The report shows that in the EU, the impacts of chemicals on children’s brain development include: poorer memory; reduced visual recognition; less well developed movement skills; as well as lower IQ scores.

It has been calculated that the loss of one IQ point can be associated with a reduction in lifetime earnings of 2.39 per cent, but the long term implications of the effects seen in children are not known.

In addition, disabilities such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and autism appear to be increasing, and concern is growing about the role chemicals may play in these disorders. The European Commission now regards the occurrence of developmental and learning disabilities as a ’significant public health problem’. Yet most chemicals on the market today lack available safety information, particularly about their ability to cause developmental toxicity - where toxics affect the developing offspring, but the same dose levels would not cause effects in mothers - or birth defects.

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