Learning Disabilities Association of America's

Learning Disabilities Association
of America's
Children Are More At Risk From Toxic Chemicals:
• Children are not “little adults” – their developing brains
and bodies, their metabolism and behaviors make them
uniquely vulnerable to harm from toxic chemicals.
• Exposure begins in the womb through the mother’s exposures to toxic chemicals. Infants ingest toxic chemicals through breast milk,
formula and contact with their environment. Toxic chemicals have been found
in cord blood – meaning that babies are born with dangerous chemicals
already in their bodies.
• Rapid brain development in the fetus, infants and young children make
them more susceptible to harm from chemicals that may impair brain function and development.
• For their weight, children eat, drink and breathe more than adults – so
pound for pound, they take in a greater quantity of toxic contaminants than
adults. A small exposure translates into a big dose.
• Children put things in their mouths and spend time on the floor and ground,
so they may regularly ingest chemicals from toys, containers, dirt and dust.
Toxic Chemicals Linked to Learning Disabilities:
The Learning Disabilities Association created the Healthy
Children Project to:
Raise awareness of environmental factors, particularly toxic
chemicals, that can harm brain development, contributing to
learning disabilities and behavior disorders.
Prevent toxic chemical exposures, especially among pregnant
women and children.
Build a nationwide network of LDA members working to
protect children’s health and reduce toxic exposures that may
lead to learning disabilities in current and future generations.
There are 3000 chemicals produced at more than one
million pounds per year. Our government does not require
testing of chemicals for effects on brain development, so
very few chemicals have been tested. Of the 3000 chemicals, 10 are known neurotoxins – meaning they impair
neurological development and function. There is good
evidence that another 200 of these chemicals are neurotoxins.
Chemicals known to harm brain development, and contribute to learning
and developmental disabilities and behavior disorders are:
LEAD – Found in old paint in older houses, also in toys, jewelry, lead pipes
and lead sinkers. There is no safe level of lead exposure for children.
MERCURY – Released into air from coal-fired power plants, also found in
medical equipment, switches and fluorescent bulbs. Mercury falls into the
water, where it accumulates in fish. The main exposure to humans is through
eating fish.
PAHS – Air pollutants from fuel combustion in vehicles, coal-fired power
plants, heating and cooking. These air pollutants are also found in tobacco
PCBs – Used to make electrical transformers. Banned in the late 1970s, but
still widely found in lakes, rivers, soil, fish and people. PCBs can impair
thyroid development and function.
PBDEs – Certain flame retardants added to furniture, electronics, clothing
and other products. PBDEs accumulate in household dust. Washington and
Maine have banned all PBDE flame retardants.
MANGANESE – A trace element that at high levels, either in drinking water
or through exposure to welding fumes, can damage brain development.
ARSENIC – Found in drinking water around the world. Affects neurodevelopment in children.
PESTICIDES – Used to kill insects, plants, fungi or animals on crops, lawns,
homes, schools and office buildings. U.S. pesticide use in agriculture and
homes totals more than one billion pounds per year.
SOLVENTS – An array of compounds, including toluene, benzene, alcohol,
turpentine, acetone and TCE, found in products such as gasoline, lighter fluid,
lubricating oils, paint strippers and thinners, glues, furniture polishes, nail
polish, floor, metal and wood cleaners, varnishes, stains and shellacs.
Chemicals Under Investigation for Effects on Brain Development:
Endocrine Disruptors: Chemicals that disrupt the hormonal
system, including Phthalates and Bisphenol A, (both of which
are widely used in plastics), PCBs, PBDEs, dioxins and
organochlorine pesticides.
Food Additives (Dyes and Preservatives): Used throughout
the food supply and long suspected of causing conduct disorders
and hyperactivity. Under study for effects on neurodevelopment,
cognition and behavior.
Fluoride: Commonly added to municipal drinking water and in toothpaste
and mouthwashes. Excessive fluoride lowers thyroid hormone levels. Primary
concerns are cumulative exposures and determining levels that may cause
neurodevelopmental effects.
There are steps you can take at home to minimize your family’s
risks of toxic chemical exposures:
Cleaning Your Home and Family:
• Buy or make non-toxic cleaning products. (See back of pamphlet)
• Dust and vacuum regularly; Remove shoes when entering your home;
minimize use of carpets.
• Use regular soap rather than anti-bacterial soap. Anti-bacterial soap
contains a pesticide (triclosan) that may promote antibiotic-resistant bacteria
and disrupt the endocrine system.
• Look for non-toxic personal care products, such as shampoos, soaps, lotions
and cosmetics. Avoid products containing lead, mercury and phthalates (often
listed as “fragrance”).
• Never use plastic containers or plastic wrap in the microwave. Minimize
use of plastics with food or drink. Do NOT use polycarbonate (7), polyvinyl
chloride (3) or styrene (6) with food or drink; they can leach toxic chemicals.
Safer plastics are PETE (1), HDPE (2), LDPE (4) and polypropylene (5).
• Avoid polyvinyl chloride (#3) in toys, teethers, building materials, shower
curtains and other items.
• Avoid use of polycarbonate plastic (#7), especially with food or drink. Use
glass or non-polycarbonate plastic baby bottles, and stainless steel or nonpolycarbonate sippy cups.
• Buy organic and/or locally grown food when possible.
Farmers markets can be a good source of inexpensive, local
and organic produce.
• Eat a diet low in animal fats, with lots of fruits and
vegetables. Some toxic chemicals accumulate in fatty tissues of animals.
• Some fish contain high levels of mercury, PCBs and other toxic chemicals.
Choose fish low in mercury. For guidance see:
• Avoid using non-stick (Teflon) pots and pans. Dispose of Teflon pans that are
peeling, cracked or flaking.
• Eat organic as much as possible.
• Do not use or minimize use of pesticides in your home or garden or on your
• Eat fish that are low in mercury, and choose wild or canned salmon rather
than farm-raised salmon.
• Ask your doctor for a thyroid test and make sure your diet includes some
iodine. Iodized salt is a good source.
• Get children tested for lead at ages one or two.
• Test water supplies for lead. Test private wells for arsenic and other
contaminants on a regular basis.
Preventing Toxic Exposures to Pregnant Women, the
Fetus and Newborns
It is especially important for pregnant women or women
considering pregnancy to take precautions to minimize toxic
exposures. The womb is a child’s first habitat, where healthy
brain development starts.
When Pregnant, DO NOT:
• DO NOT Smoke: Children whose mothers smoke during pregnancy or who
are exposed to smoke from others are at greater risk for behavior disorders
and learning disabilities.
• DO NOT Drink Alcohol: Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is the most
preventable form of learning and behavioral disabilities.
• DO NOT Use pesticides in your home, garden or yard. New studies show
links between maternal pesticide exposure and developmental problems
including learning disabilities and autism. Insecticides can be especially toxic
to developing brains.
• DO NOT Use plastic containers or plastic wrap in the microwave. Avoid use
of plastic with food and drink.
When Pregnant, DO:
• Take a prenatal vitamin that contains folic acid and be sure to get enough
• Eat a diet low in animal fats and high in fruits and vegetables. Some of the
most toxic chemicals collect and are stored in fatty tissues in animals and
eventually in people. A diet low in animal fats can mean fewer toxic chemicals
in breast milk.
• Ask your doctor for a blood lead level test.
Protecting Your Newborn:
• Breastfeed your baby if at all possible. Although toxic
chemicals are found in breast milk, breast feeding still
provides the best health benefits for babies, boosts immune
system, benefits brain development and reduces risks for
asthma, cancer, diabetes and obesity.
• Use glass bottles or bottles not made of polycarbonate plastic. Ask retailers for baby bottles that do not contain Bisphenol A (BPA).
• Provide non-toxic toys. Do not give babies or children toys or teethers
made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic. (#3)
• Minimize use of lotions, oils, powders and other baby care products.
Join LDA in Protecting Children’s Health and Reducing Toxic Exposures:
LDA is working with other organizations to:
• Change chemical policy
• Ban toxic chemicals from products
• Require manufacturers to test chemicals before using them
• Clearly label products containing toxic chemicals.
LDA members are raising awareness and helping to pass new laws to reduce
children’s exposure to toxic chemicals and enable every child to reach his or
her full potential. We hope you will join us in this effort.
Contact: Maureen Swanson, Healthy Children Project Coordinator,
Learning Disabilities Association of America
4156 Library Road
Pittsburgh, PA 15234
Phone: 412-341-1515 ext. 208
Email: [email protected]
LDA’s Healthy Children Project website: www.healthychildrenproject.org
The Healthy Children Project is funded by the John Merck Fund & The Heinz Endowments.
Helpful internet resources include:
LDA state affiliates healthy home and family guides:
LDA-ME: www.ldame.org/hcp.html
LDA-MI: www.ldaofmichigan.org/healthychild.htm
Green Product and Consumer Guides:
Institute for Children’s Environmental Health: www.iceh.org, see
“Resources” for fact sheets on preventing toxic exposures.
Learning and Developmental Disabilities Initiative:
Environmental Working Group: www.ewg.org
Make Non-Toxic Cleaning Products
Clean sinks, counter tops, pots and pans with: Baking soda and a moist
Clean windows and mirrors with: One-fourth cup vinegar mixed with one
quart water. Or use club soda. Wipe with newspaper.
Clean drains with: Half cup baking soda and half cup vinegar. Pour baking
soda followed by vinegar down drain, flush with hot water.
Remove spots from carpet with: Club soda and salt, or a 3 to 1 mix of
vinegar and water. Pour onto stains. Allow to bubble, dab dry.
Clean wooden, tile and linoleum floors and wood furniture with: A few
drops of vinegar and a capful of baby oil in a bucket of water.
Beyond Pesticides: www.beyondpesticides.org
Safe Cosmetics: www.safecosmetics.org
Toxics in Toys: www.healthytoys.org
Natural Resources Defense Council (Mercury):
Learning Disabilities Association of America
4156 Library Road
Pittsburgh, PA 15234
[email protected]
Rev. 2008