Chemicals linked with brain disorders in children - An Update - Magaziner

Chemicals linked with brain disorders in children – An Update

We are following articles about perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), widely used in manufactured products such as non-stick cookware, waterproof clothing, and fast-food packaging, were associated with lowered immune response to vaccinations in children.


Recent research suggested that toxic chemicals may be triggering the recent increases in neurodevelopmental disabilities among children—such as autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and dyslexia—according to a new study from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

The researchers say a new global prevention strategy to control the use of these substances is urgently needed.

“The greatest concern is the large numbers of children who are affected by toxic damage to brain development in the absence of a formal diagnosis. They suffer reduced attention span, delayed development, and poor school performance. Industrial chemicals are now emerging as likely causes,” said Philippe Grandjean, adjunct professor of environmental health at HSPH.

The report follows up on a similar review conducted by the authors in 2006 that identified five industrial chemicals as “developmental neurotoxicants,” or chemicals that can cause brain deficits. The new study offers updated findings about those chemicals and adds information on six newly recognized ones, including manganese, fluoride, chlorpyrifos and DDT (pesticides), tetrachloroethylene (a solvent), and the polybrominated diphenyl ethers (flame retardants).

The study outlines possible links between these newly recognized neurotoxicants and negative health effects on children, including:

  • Manganese is associated with diminished intellectual function and impaired motor skills
  • Solvents are linked to hyperactivity and aggressive behavior
  • Certain types of pesticides may cause cognitive delays

Grandjean and co-author Philip Landrigan, Dean for Global Health at Mount Sinai, also forecast that many more chemicals than the known dozen or so identified as neurotoxicants contribute to a “silent pandemic” of neurobehavioral deficits that is eroding intelligence, disrupting behaviors, and damaging societies. But controlling this pandemic is difficult because of a scarcity of data to guide prevention and the huge amount of proof needed for government regulation. “Very few chemicals have been regulated as a result of developmental neurotoxicity,” they write.

The authors say it’s crucial to control the use of these chemicals to protect children’s brain development worldwide. They propose mandatory testing of industrial chemicals and the formation of a new international clearinghouse to evaluate industrial chemicals for potential developmental neurotoxicity.

“The problem is international in scope, and the solution must therefore also be international,” said Grandjean. “We have the methods in place to test industrial chemicals for harmful effects on children’s brain development—now is the time to make that testing mandatory.”1

A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) says that perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), widely used in manufactured products such as non-stick cookware, waterproof clothing, and fast-food packaging, were associated with lowered immune response to vaccinations in children.

Researchers cited that this was the first study to document how PFCs, which can be transferred to children prenatally (via the mother) and postnatally from exposure in the environment, can adversely affect vaccine response.

PFCs have thousands of industrial and manufacturing uses. Most Americans have the chemical compounds in their bodies. Prior studies have shown that PFC concentrations in mice similar to those found in people suppressed immune response, but the adverse effects on people had been poorly documented.

The researchers analyzed data on children recruited at birth at National Hospital in Torshavn, Faroe Islands during 1999-2001. A total of 587 participated in follow-up examinations. Children were tested for immune response to tetanus and diphtheria vaccinations at ages 5 and 7 years. PFCs were measured in maternal pregnancy serum and in the serum of children at age 5 to determine prenatal and postnatal exposure.

The results showed that PFC exposure was associated with lower antibody responses to immunizations and an increased risk of antibody levels in children lower than those needed to provide long-term protection. (Antibody concentrations in serum are a good indicator of overall immune functions in children.) A two-fold greater concentration of three major PFCs was associated with a 49% lower level of serum antibodies in children at age 7 years.2,3

Chronic Infection? Weakened Immune System?

At the Magaziner Center for Wellness, we recognize the symptoms of a weakened immune system, and then we look beyond the symptoms in order to address the underlying triggers, which very often are related to allergies or sensitivities to common irritants like the household chemicals spoken of in the report above. In patients who are allergic or sensitive to foods, environmental chemicals or pollen, for example, the presence of these agents suppresses the immune system and contributes to infection.

We conduct allergy testing to identify triggers and, once identified, we utilize sublingual desensitization to naturally treat the immune system by training it to respond appropriately to the allergens that affect each individual patient. We work with our patients to modify their diets and lifestyles to avoid other triggers – including those that are food-based or result from chemicals (including those found in paint and carpeting).

A word about vaccines

Parents should proceed with care when it comes to vaccinations. That doesn’t mean they should forego them completely, but they need to be aware that one size certainly does not fit all when it comes to any vaccination. We implore parents to be sure their children are in very good health before an immunization is administered (no fevers, cold or other illness immediately prior to their shots), they should not be afraid to ask for a vaccination that does not contain preservatives (so that there are less potentially harmful elements within the cocktail) and, of course, they should talk to their doctor about their concerns.

1. Harvard School of Public Health  Press Release Feb 14, 2014 and

2. Harvard School of Public Health Press Release Jan 24, 2012

3. Grandjean P, Andersen EW, Budtz-Jorgensen E, et al. Serum Vaccine Antibody Concentrations in Children Exposed to Perfluorinated Compounds. JAMA, January 25, 2012,

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