Javascript Redirect

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

"Damaging societies," one child at a time

Another research study is showing us what happens when children encounter neurotoxins. Gladly, its findings are making news. This is in large part because it underscores what previous efforts have already demonstrated: a good many chemicals that we produce in our industries and use at home are preventing normal, healthy lives for many of our children.

The paper, “Neurobehavioural effects of developmental toxicity” in the March 2014 edition of The Lancet Neurology is authored by Philippe Grandjean and Philip J Landrigan. Its summary tells us that 
[n]eurodevelopmental disabilities, including autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia, and other cognitive impairments, affect millions of children worldwide, and some diagnoses seem to be increasing in frequency. Industrial chemicals that injure the developing brain are among the known causes for this rise in prevalence. In 2006, we did a systematic review and identified five industrial chemicals as developmental neurotoxicants: lead, methylmercury, polychlorinated biphenyls, arsenic, and toluene. Since 2006, epidemiological studies have documented six additional developmental neurotoxicants—manganese, fluoride, chlorpyrifos, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, tetrachloroethylene, and the polybrominated diphenyl ethers. We postulate that even more neurotoxicants remain undiscovered.
In simple terms, our creativity in cobbling together this or that chemical can come at a price to our children, our societies, and our souls. Science is showing us what the cost can be to our kids when they come in contact with unnatural and toxic substances; our experiences with so many affected children are showing us the price to society; and our decisions to continue on or to slow the use of such chemicals will tell us what sort of people we are.

Indeed, Landrigan and Grandjean signal a problem with how in the past governments allowed and industries produced chemicals that, after a time, were found to be harmful. 
A recurring theme in many cases was that commercial introduction and wide dissemination of the chemicals preceded any systematic effort to assess potential toxicity. Particularly absent were advance efforts to study possible effects on children’s health or the potential of exposures in early life to disrupt early development. Similar challenges have been confronted in other public health disasters, such as those caused by tobacco smoking, alcohol use, and reļ¬ned foods. These problems have been recently termed industrial epidemic.
The authors recommend the development of an “international clearinghouse on neurotoxicity” to research and make health information available on industrial chemicals. Man-made chemicals can certainly be made and used safely. We just need the right information to do so. But after reading this report on toxicity, one wonders why there isn’t already a global means to easily study and share such information—especially if it means the protection of innocent life.

Moreover, Landrigan and Grandjean warn that the true number of dangerous chemicals is much higher than we might think. And so they are rightly concerned “that children worldwide are being exposed to unrecognised toxic chemicals that are silently eroding intelligence, disrupting behaviours, truncating future achievements, and damaging societies, perhaps most seriously in developing countries.”

I was struck when I read this. Certainly this paper echoes concerns raised by the Church, as we find here by the bishops of the United States. But the author’s language echoes almost verbatim the words of Benedict XVI that are used in the masthead of this blog, that "[o]ur duties towards the environment are linked to our duties towards the human person. ... It would be wrong to uphold one set of duties while trampling on the other. Herein lies a grave contradiction in our mentality and practice today: one which demeans the person, disrupts the environment, and damages society."

This study will rightly generate a chorus of distress from secular environmental health advocates. Such attention is good and proper, not only for this issue but for the wider ones it points to. After all, the harm done to the born and unborn by man-made neurotoxins is a sort of reflection of other man-made harms to the born and unborn that we as a people countenance. Would that our concerns about neurotoxins illuminate all such threats.

In any event, for now we give many thanks and offer many blessings to Drs. Grandjean and Landrigan for their great work and for the Lancet for publishing it. May this study and the many like them teach us how to appreciate and build a true culture of life.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for commenting. No input or question is too small. You're encouraged to be passionate, feisty, and humorous. But do so with civility, please.