A few excerpts from a very good new report: No Brainer. The impact of chemicals on children’s brain development: a cause for concern and a need for action
Brain development is uniquely vulnerable to disruption
Our brains are astoundingly complex, made up of over 85 billion neurons, which have grown, developed and interconnected during our lives. The brain is the human organ that takes the longest to develop, with the initial stages of cell division, creation of neurons and migration to form the brain taking place from the first hours after fertilisation and throughout the foetus’s time in the womb. However, brain development does not stop at birth – it’s not until our twenties that neurons are fully developed with their myelin coats. Normal brain development is the result of an undisturbed harmonious interaction among cells, and between cells and hormones. Hormones play an important role in cell migration and differentiation, neuron-to-neuron communication and growth.
Experts in brain development state that “the prenatal brain develops under the influence of an ever-changing hormonal milieu” with inputs arising from the foetal, placental and maternal compartments.
However, external substances can interfere with the normal function of hormones. Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are examples of substances that can alter this delicate balance, and as thyroid hormones play a vital role in brain development, thyroid disrupting chemicals are of particular concern…
What should a member of the public do if they wish to reduce their risk – or the risk to their current/future children?
Based on what we know today, some limited advice can be given. In regard to lead, depending on the residence, consider having the drinking water at home tested for lead, as well as the paints that may peel and cause exposures. For arsenic, the drinking water in certain areas may be contaminated; filters are available to remove the arsenic. Fluoride can also be a water contaminant in certain areas; bottled water may be needed to avoid the water contaminants, though some brands are high in fluoride. In regard to mercury, pregnant women should avoid eating large, predatory fish, such as sushi tuna and canned albacore. Finally, I recommend that pregnant women avoid conventionally grown fruits and leafy vegetables, although those that can be peeled are less likely to be contaminated. The use of pesticides, paint thinners and the like at home or in the garden is also a bad idea, especially when exposures may involve pregnant women and small children…