No news is bad news
26 November 2013. No new chemical brain drainers have turned up during the last several weeks, at least no new scientific evidence has emerged. Also, no major breakthrough has happened in regard to protection of the next generation’s brains. And no important new results have been published lately on brain drainers that we already worry about. This web site has been seemingly asleep. But isn’t that good news, you might ask. Unfortunately not. Let me explain why.
In 2006, we were able to identify only five industrial chemicals that had caused well-documented toxicity to children’s brains. Alcohol (ethanol), although not usually regarded an industrial chemical, could be added, so that makes a total of six. When scrutinizing the scientific documentation since 2006, we now find that another six chemical brain drainers have become sufficiently documented – fluoride, manganese, tetrachloroethylene, chlorpyrifos, DDT (and its metabolite, DDE), and brominated diphenyl ethers. So the list has grown to a total of 12 – an average of one new brain toxicant has been added each year since 2006. All of them were already known to cause toxicity to the nervous system in adults. There are for sure many more substances that can damage brain development, but the convincing documentation is missing so far. Tha depressing background is told extremely well in a magazine story this week.
When we looked for new industrial chemicals that were able to cause brain toxicity in adults during the last six years or so, we found 12 additional substances, thus bringing the total number of human brain toxicants to 214. So we added an average of two new brain poisons each year, twice as many as the number found to affect developing brains. As expected, none of these 12 new toxicants are known to cause adverse effects to brain development. At least not yet.
In regard to policy decisions, nothing much has happened during the last few weeks. The EU decided to defer for one year the decision on revision of the chemicals legislation, REACH. The delay was triggered by controversies about the need to regulate endocrine disruptors, i.e., substances that may interfere with the hormone systems. Many of these substances also interfere with brain functions, as the regulation of certain hormones is controlled from specific parts of the brain. And because brain development itself depends on hormones, these substances may well be brain drainers. But so far, legislators have not made a move to regulate substances that can damage the next generation’s brains. Likewise, in the US, discussions continue in the Senate on how to update the ancient Toxic Substances Control Act (from 1976), a law that badly needs updating. So there is nothing new to report.
The lack of progress on better control of chemical brain drainers, along with the slow growth of scientific documentation, is bad news. Really bad news that we hope will not last. We shall be back soon, hopefully, as circumstances allow.