How Chemicals Can Affect Child Brain Development

Last December, we had the pleasure of attending an annual symposium hosted by Mount Sinai Childrens Environmental Health Center (CEHC). The keynote speaker was Dr. Robert Wright who discussed how chemicals interfere with a child’s brain development. For those who couldn’t make it, fortunately the CEHC has posted the video for everyone to view and share.

We highly encourage you to watch the symposium, though it is quite long. Admittedly, Dr. Wright’s lecture gets technical, but it is still fascinating to hear.  Here are some of the key takeaways from the lectures by the CEHC’s director, Dr. Phillip Landrigan, and the keynote speaker, Dr. Robert Wright.

  • It is now well established and widely accepted that chemical exposures can cause profound brain damage.
  • The critical windows of vulnerability: In the womb and during early brain development.
  • The world our children live in today is fundamentally different from the one that we grew up in. Over the last 50 years, 80,000 new chemicals are now found in everyday products and fewer than 20% of these chemicals have ever been tested for childhood toxicity.
  • Rates of childhood diseases and illnesses – like autism, ADHD, cancer, and obesity – are on the rise.
  • Even taking into account the weight difference between a child versus an adult, the per kg chemical dose that produces a measurable effect in a child is much smaller than an adult because the brain is developing and is therefore more vulnerable.
  • Chemical exposures can affect how the synapses in the brain function – by causing synapses to fire without any environmental stimuli or to block synapses from firing in spite of environmental stimuli or both (lead causes both).