Experts warn of environmental contaminants

A prestigious group of children’s health experts says its time to quit debating the effects of certain environmental agents and do something about it.

On Wednesday, the Collaborative on Health and the Environment’s Learning and Developmental Disabilities Initiative published the “Scientific Consensus Statement on Environmental Agents Associated with Neurodevelopmental Disorders.”

In the statement, experts say exposure to those agents is leading to all kinds of child and adult disorders. It doesn’t blame any industry or manufacturer. It just points out that the things unleashed in the environment, like foul air from the freeway, often end up harming children.
It wasn’t long after his first birthday that the parents of 6-year-old Donovan noticed something was wrong, but they weren’t prepared for what came next.

“The first time anybody suggested it could be autism, it was pretty heavy,” said Angela Dawson.

The exact causes of autism and other child developmental disorders are unknown.

The debate still rages over the role environmental contaminates may play, but experts now say it’s time to act.

“We need to prevent these things and we have the knowledge to do that and we need to make the resources available to do that,” said Dr. Steven Gilbert, who helped with the statement released Wednesday.

The document says experts are confident some environmental agents cause learning and development disabilities. They range from the obvious suspects like alcohol, lead and mercury, to the less common – PBDEs or fire retardants, manganese solvents and pesticides.

Scientists have known for years these contaminates get into children through food, including breastmilk as babies, and just about everything else as they get older.

They’re in the toys they play with, in the dust they breathe, and in the products people use to keep children safe from germs.

The group hopes its statement will lead to, at best, the end of widespread uses of these contaminates, and at least, warnings of the existence of them in household products.

It’s the most unified statement on the issue so far and a long time coming for parents like Angela Dawson.

“You’re kids well being, it effects their health, their education and it affects us as parents,” she said.

And with recent evidence linking the same environmental contaminates to disorders that strike later in life, like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, the group says it’s in all everyone’s best interest to stop the exposure.

The group says the statement isn’t about blaming anyone or singling anyone out. It’s about potential and how every child deserves to see what theirs is.

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