Today, one out of every six children suffers from some form of neurodevelopmental abnormality. The causes are mostly unknown. Some environmental chemicals are known to cause brain damage and many more are suspected of it, but few have been tested for such effects. Philippe Grandjean provides an authoritative and engaging analysis of how environmental hazards can damage brain development and what we can do about it.
The brain's development is uniquely sensitive to toxic chemicals, and even small deficits may negatively impact our academic achievements, economic success, risk of delinquency, and quality of life. Chemicals such as mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), arsenic, and certain pesticides pose an insidious threat to the development of the next generation's brains. When chemicals in the environment affect the development of a child's brain, he or she is at risk for mental retardation, cerebral palsy, autism, ADHD, and a range of learning disabilities and other deficits that will remain for a lifetime.
We can halt chemical brain drain and protect the next generation, however, and Grandjean tells us how. First, we need to control all of the 200 industrial chemicals that have already been proven to affect brain functions in adults, as their effects on the developing brain are likely even worse. We must also push for routine testing for brain toxicity, stricter regulation of chemical emissions, and more required disclosure on the part of industries who unleash hazardous chemicals into products and the environment. Decisions can still be made to protect the brains of future generations.
"In his crisply written, deeply documented book, Dr. Philippe Grandjean, renowned physician and public health specialist, describes the exquisite vulnerability of the developing human brain to toxic chemicals in the environment, a vulnerability that he ascribes to the brain's almost unimaginable complexity. Today, nearly one in 6 children is born with a neurodevelopmental disorder - a birth defect of the brain. One in 8 has attention deficit disorder. One in 68 is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. These rates are far higher than those of a generation ago, and, although they are less publicized, the problems are more prevalent than those caused by thalidomide in the 1960's. The increases are far too rapid to be genetic. They cannot be explained by better diagnosis. How then could they have come to be? Dr. Grandjean has a diagnosis the thousands of toxic chemicals that have been released to the environment in the past 40 years with no testing for toxicity. David P. Rall, former Director of the US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, once stated that 'If thalidomide had caused a ten-point loss of IQ rather than obvious birth defects of the limbs, it would probably still be on the market'. This is the core message of Dr. Grandjean's 'must read' book." - Philip J. Landrigan, Dean for Global Health, Ethel H. Wise Professor and Chairman and Director, Children's Environmental Health Center, Mount Sinai School of Medicine
About the Author
Philippe Grandjean is Professor and Chair of Environmental Medicine at the University of Southern Denmark and Adjunct Professor of Environmental Health in the Department of Environmental Health at Harvard School of Public Health. He has devoted his career to studying how environmental chemicals affect children and their brain development. His studies on mercury triggered an international response that led to a United Nations agreement to control mercury pollution. He has studied children in the U.S. and Denmark, in the Faroe Islands, and countries in South America and Asia, and he has published more than 500 scientific papers on his findings.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Brain Matters: Only One Chance to Develop a Brain
1. Sensitive Development: Complexity Creates Vulnerability
2. Toxic Invasion: The Placenta Is Not a Protective Armor
3. Invisible Lead: Health Hazards from Demanding Scientific Proof
4. Poisoned Science: Mercury Damaged the Child's Brain but Did Not Harm the Mother
5. Substituted Milk: Poisoning During Infancy Causes Permanent Brain Damage
6. Persistent Problems: Chemicals Resistant to Break-Down Can Break Brain Cells
7. Unusual Suspects: Chemicals That Protect the Lawn May Damage the Brain
8. Mindless Costs: Losses Suffered by Victims and Society from Chemical Brain Drain
9. Inconvenient Truths: Vested Interests Can Endanger Brain Development
10. Brainy Choices: How to Secure Optimal Brain Development for the Next Generation
Appendix: Chemicals Known to Be Brain Drainers
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Written by an expert scientist for the informed lay reader, this book documents how our most precious and complex organ, the brain, is uniquely sensitive to toxic chemicals. Using known pollutants such as lead, mercury and arsenic, Grandjean shows how scientists were afraid of crying wolf and understated the risks, while industry representatives claimed that the pollution was innocuous. While waiting for better evidence, virtually millions of children suffered toxic effects to their developing brains making them slower, distracted and forgetful. As few would obtain a formal medical diagnosis, Grandjean calls it a silent epidemic. Even more scary is it that at least 200 pollutants are suspected to cause similar effects. But we are just waiting for better proof, that is, for a sufficient number of children to develop brain problems for researchers to discover it. The author argues that the loss of brain functions is already costing us billions of dollars every year, and he proposes a very reasonable action plan. When I got to the last chapter, I was so shocked and upset that I would suggest urgent action to prevent industrial chemicals from damaging the brains of our children and grand-children. Enough is clearly known, and we have no right to 'wait and see' when the safety of the next generation's brains is at stake. I highly recommend this book, and I truly hope that it will inspire courageous action by scientists and decision-makers.