data from the Toxic Release Inventory, NET, PSR and LDA report that
total releases of developmental toxins in the US are at least 24
billion pounds annually. These developmental toxins have the
potential to affect the way a child's body and brain develop,
especially in the womb. This is the first comprehensive effort to
summarize releases of this nature.
TRI data accumulated from industry document releases of 1.2 billion
pounds of compounds known or suspected to be developmental toxins.
Because TRI data cover only, roughly, 5% of industrial releases,
this report estimates the total release of developmental toxins
may be as much as 24 million pounds. Given that so few of the thousands
of chemicals in modern use have been tested for developmental toxicity,
particularly developmental neurotoxicity, this overall estimate
is likely to be low.
the reports findings:
17% of all US children suffer from one or more developmental,
learning or behavioral disabilities. While there is significant
uncertainty about the causes of these, the US National Academy
of Sciences estimates that 3% are due to known toxic substances
and another 25% are due to the interactions between environmental
factors and genetic predispositions.
number of health and behavioral problems are increasing among
American children whose cause may include developmental errors
caused by contamination. These include increases in attention
deficit hyperactivity disorder; a doubling of the rate of
autism over 30 years; a 6% increase over 8 years in very
low birthweight babies; a 4.5% increase over 8 years in premature
babies; a doubling over 8 years of atrial septal defect
(a hole in the wall between the chambers of the heart); a 50%
increase in obstructive genito-urinary defects.
and Texas lead the nation in releases to the environment of developmental
are exposed disproportionately to the risks of developmental toxins
because of the congruence of plants emitting these compounds and
the locations of African-American communities.
screening of new chemicals. New chemicals should be tested and
found to have no effect or potential effect on the physical or brain
development of children before they are allowed into commerce. The
existing law does not require testing for developmental and neurological
testing of existing chemicals. Chemicals produced in high volumes,
to which children and childbearing adults are routinely exposed,
should be thoroughly tested for safety. The chemical industry has
vigorously resisted an initiative that would have them voluntarily
test such chemicals.
at the point of exposure. For substances currently in commerce
that may potentially have developmental or neurological effects,
all users and manufacturers should be required to post warning labels
on products and near facilities emitting these substances. As demonstrated
in California under Proposition 65, the requirement ot inform consumers
of hazardous exposures has a double benefit. It empowers consumers
to protect themselves while at the same time encouraging manufacturers
to find safer substitutes.
pollution reporting. Millions of pounds of releases into the
environment of developmental and neurological toxins are never reported
to federal or state Toxic Release Inventories (TRIs) because they
are manufactured or used at levels that are less than current reporting
thresholds. As a result, companies have no incentive to reduce pollution
of these chemicals as they have for hundreds of other chemicals
they do report to state and federal TRIs. If reporting thresholds
for developmental and neurological toxins were lowered, more information
would become available to the public, and releases of these substances
would likely be reduced over time.
electric power plants for air pollution. The electric power
industry is the nation's largest source of industrial air pollution
that is not regulated for toxic chemical emissions. EPA should treat
the electric power industry like other major industries and require
it to adhere to specific limits on toxic air pollution--including
developmental and neurological toxins such as mercury, toluene,
benzene, hydrogen flouride, and nickel.
Exposure and disease monitoring. To allow public health
officials and environmental regulators to assess the real effects
of toxic chemicals on U.S. children, a program should be implemented
to: (1) monitor developmental and neurological toxins in the bodies
of representative samplings of children and women, and (2) record
the incidence of developmental and neurological disabilities in
the general population.