Today I want to share with you an important article from The Atlantic. “The Toxins that Threaten Our Brain” features recent research by two experts in the fields of pediatric medicine and toxicology – Dr. Philippe Grandjean from Harvard Medical School and Dr. Philip Landrigan from Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in Manhattan.
In late February, Grandjean and Landrigan published a paper arguing that exposure of children to industrial chemicals was responsible for a wide array of neurodevelopmental defects. They further argued that these defects are occurring with such massive, worldwide scale as to merit the label of “silent pandemic.”
The Atlantic article highlights several interesting points about the issue of environmental toxins that we find very relevant to pregnant and new moms: 1) chemicals are omnipresent, 2) pregnancy is the most vulnerable time for exposure, and 3) the regulatory process meant to govern these chemicals is very broken.
Grandjean and Landrigan’s research names twelve chemicals we encounter in our everyday lives, a so-called “dirty dozen”. These include some you’ve probably heard of, like lead, methylmercury and ethanol, and others that might surprise you. These substances pop up pretty much everywhere: in our couches, our cars and in our beauty products. For instance, toluene made the list, and, until recently, it was widely used to make nail polish.
Vulnerability during Pregnancy
The concern arises from the growing body of evidence that these chemicals affect neurological development at levels far below the “safe” limits set by the EPA. This exposure has been linked to loss of IQ points as well as a number of behavioral disorders.
Neurological development is a delicate process; billions of cells must orchestrate themselves in space to ultimately create the most complex organ in the body – the brain. Any disturbance of the developing brain generally has permanent consequences because, physically speaking, the brain reaches its finished form by the age of two. This is why exposure to neurotoxins is so much more pernicious during pregnancy and for newborns.
As for what you can do to reduce risk, Dr. Grandjean recommends eating organic during pregnancy when possible. This will at least minimize pesticide exposure, which is a main area of concern. However, this is not a viable long-term solution for our society.
A Regulatory Process in Need of Reform
The point of all this isn’t to make you panic, but rather to draw attention to the glaring faults of our regulatory process in the United States. As with any toxin “the dose makes the poison.” However, the vast majority of the 80,000 chemicals approved for use are untested, and thus we have no idea what the dangerous dose actually is.
The EPA is almost powerless to fully ban a substance – it’s happened just 5 times out of 20,000 cases since the current legislation was put in place. This is why large-scale reform is needed. Dr. Grandjean suggests requiring at least basic testing of new products in order to identify those that need more involved safety research. He also points to the European system that requires more testing for substances that are more widely used as a very reasonable solution. But all of this will require action, and thus far we have failed to keep up with the science. Until we do, it’s critical that expecting mothers do what they can to minimize exposure.
At Nine Naturals our mission is to make beauty safe and simple for moms-to-be. We feel that education is the first step in this process and that research like this must be shared. This information empowers us to protect ourselves, our families and our futures. (The Atlantic).
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CEO, Founder Nine Naturals