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Contact: Stephenie Hendricks stephdh@earthlink.net (415) 258-9151

Margie Kelly, info@saferchemicals.org, (541) 344-2282

February 4, 2010

Brain Development and Toxic Chemicals

Learning and Developmental Disabilities Groups release first-ever biomonitoring project on environmental neurotoxins

61 toxic chemicals found in human participants pose the question: What is the relationship between toxic chemicals, and rising rates of autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and other learning and developmental disabilities?

Washington, D.C. – In an innovative development that could transform the way Americans view the origins of learning and developmental disabilities, the national Learning and Developmental Disabilities Initiative (LDDI) today released the first-ever biomonitoring report identifying toxic chemical pollution in people from the learning and developmental disability community. Mind, Disrupted: How Toxic Chemicals May Affect How We Think and Who We Are examines 61 toxic chemicals present in project participants in the context of rising rates of autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and other learning and developmental disabilities.

The report was released in conjunction with today’s Senate Hearing to be held at 10:00 a.m. before the Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Superfund, Toxics and Environmental Health to examine current science on public exposures to toxic chemicals. (http://epw.senate.gov/ )

Membership organizations of LDDI represent a powerful constituency of tens of thousands of Americans concerned with current levels of chemical exposure and potential impacts to public health. LDDI is active on Capitol Hill and across the country educating self-advocates, caregivers, scientists and decision-makers about the need for new reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). LDDI’s leading organizations are also members of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, a broad coalition of environmental health groups working for reform of toxic chemical regulations.

In the U. S., 5-15% of children under age 18 are affected by learning and developmental disabilities. Reported cases of autism spectrum disorders have increased tenfold since the early 1990s. Based on current research, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that 1 in 110 eight-year-old children have autism in the United States.

Mind, Disrupted measured levels of a set of neurotoxic and endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the participants’ bodies. A growing body of peer-reviewed scientific research, including animal and human studies, shows that these chemicals can disrupt the development and functioning of the brain and nervous system.

“Children are uniquely vulnerable to environmental exposures because their biological systems are still developing. During fetal development, exposures to even miniscule amounts of toxins at certain developmental windows can have lifelong health impacts,” acknowledged Larry Silver, M.D., author and a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown Medical Center, accomplished self-advocate, and author of groundbreaking learning disabilities research. “By protecting children from toxic exposures, we can protect everyone. We need to create healthy environments to ensure all children can reach their full potential and contribute to society.”

Dr. Silver was part of a diverse group panel of scientists from a range of disciplines who reviewed the report’s findings and science literature review. The Learning and Developmental Disabilities Initiative partnered with Dr. Silver and over fifty leading scientists to assemble a policy consensus statement from the scientific community covering toxic chemical exposures and learning and developmental health.

"All of us in the study had measurable levels of neurotoxic and endocrine disrupting chemicals in our bodies, regardless of how carefully we buy products for our families or food for our tables. I realize now more than ever why reforming our federal toxics law is absolutely essential to protecting our health, and our children's health. There is no way for any of us to avoid contamination on our own,” explained Maureen Swanson, Healthy Children Project Coordinator, Learning Disabilities Association of America.

“Prevention of learning and developmental disabilities is both an individual and a community
responsibility,” says Stephen Boese, MSW, from Learning Disabilities Associaiton of New York.. “However, current laws simply do not work, and have done virtually nothing to assure Americans that our everyday products are safe for use. The enormous rise in the incidence of these disabilities is coupled with a huge increase and proliferation of chemicals in everyday consumer products. These chemicals are largely untested for human safety and largely unknown to the public.”

Advocates from the learning and developmental disability community who have historically focused on access to care and equal rights are questioning the role of toxic chemical exposures on alarming increases in LDD diagnoses as well as individual negative health outcomes in people living with neurological disabilities.

“Given the increasing rates of learning and developmental disabilities-- particularly autism—we need to recognize that the rising costs associated with long term care of disability, special education and related health care will only continue to grow,” explained Jeff Sell, Esq.,Vice President of Public Policy for the Autism Society and father of twin teen sons with autism, “The current health care debate suggests we need to do everything we can to decrease costs by taking preventative actions. Reducing environmental contributors to neurological problems will serve to save our families, communities and society significant expenses in the future and can only improve the quality of life for those with these disabilities.”

“About 16% of all children in the United States have a developmental disability, according to a 1994 study, and other research indicates this number is increasing,” says Sharyle Patton, Director of the Commonweal Biomonitoring Resource Center. “Biomonitoring surveys conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control indicate that most Americans carry in their bodies measurable levels of environmental chemicals that have been linked to neurological harm in laboratory and human studies. Precaution would suggest that we limit exposures to these chemicals, starting immediately.”

For more information about the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Hearing please visit the committee website at http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Hearings.Home

For more information about the Learning and Developmental Disabilities Initiative and to view the report online, please visit www.minddisrupted.org

Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families is a diverse and growing coalition of 120 groups working to pass smart federal policies that protect us from toxic chemicals.

LDDI is an international partnership fostering collaboration among learning and developmental disability organizations, researchers, health professionals and environmental health groups to address concerns about the impact environmental pollutants may have on neurological health. LDDI currently has over 400 organizational and individual participants engaged in research, education and policy-related efforts.

Available for Interviews

Maureen H. Swanson, Healthy Children Project Coordinator, Learning Disabilities Association of America, 724-813-9684, phone, project participant ,mswanson@ldaamerica.org.

Elise Miller, MEd, Founding Coordinator of the Learning and Developmental Disabilities Initiative (LDDI) as well as the Founder and Executive Director of the national Institute for Children’s Environmental Health for 10 years. She currently serves as the Director of the Collaborative on Health and the Environment. Phone: 360-320-9484 or 360-331-7904. elise@healthandenvironment.org.

Dr. Larry Silver, MD, a clinical psychiatry professor at Georgetown Medical Center, accomplished self-advocate, and author of groundbreaking learning disabilities research, project participant, 301-529-8702.

R. Thomas Zoeller, Professor, Biology Department, Morrill Science Center
University of Massachusetts, expert on chemical exposure research, 413-545-2088, tzoeller@bio.umass.edu, Zoeller Lab Website: http://www.bio.umass.edu/biology/zoeller/.

Jeff Sell, Esq,Vice-president of Public Policy for the Autism Society, father of twin sons with autism, and project participant, contact Carin Yavorcik, cyavorcik@autism-society.org 301-657-0881.

Stephen Boese, Executive Director, Learning Disabilities Association of New York State, project participant, expert on state and federal policy, sboese@ldanys.org.

Cathy & Beth Terrill, Mother and daughter in Chicago, IL. Cathy is the CEO and President of the Ray Graham Association for People with Disabilities, and her daughter Beth is a self-advocate in her mid twenties who has chemical sensitivities and a developmental disability. Contact Laura Abulafia 310-451-7543, laura@aaidd.org.

Laura Abulafia, MHS, National Coordinator of the Learning and Developmental Disabilities and project participant, 310-451-7543, laura@aaidd.org, www.disabilityandenvironment.org, www.healthandenvironment.org, she is Director of Education and Outreach, Environmental Health Initiative, AAIDD, www.ehinitiative.org. Laura can answer any questions about the project participants.

Andy Igrejas, Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, contact Margie Kelly, info@saferchemicals.org, 541-344-2282. Andy can address federa regulatory policy reform.

Sharyle Patton, Director, Commonweal Biomonitoring Resource Center
415-878-0970, 415-686-4857. Sharyle is an expert on biomonitoring and chemical exposure issues.

Pam Miller, Founder and Executive Director of Alaska Community Action on Toxics, can address the great drift of chemicals from lower hemispheres to the Arctic where exposure are putting Indigenous peoples at great risk for illness and can also address the role global warming plays in exacerbating toxic chemical exposure. pkmiller@akaction.net, 907-222-7714.

Judith Robinson, mother of two, including five year old daughter with Down syndrome, and Associate Director of the Environmental Health Fund, who can address role of parents in reducing childhood exposures to toxic chemicals, www.environmentalhealthfund.org, 802-251-0203, jrobinson@environmentalhealthfund.org

Kathleen A. Curtis, Policy Director of Clean New York, a project of Women's Voices for the Earth, can address interplay between state and federal chemicals policy. Cell: 518-669-8282, Office: 518.355.6202, www.clean-ny.org, clean.kathy@gmail.com


AAIDD health policy efforts and state outreach
AAIDD's Health Policy efforts, part of the Environmental Health Initiative's priorities, is focused on educating policymakers at the state and national levels.

Alaska Community Action on Toxics (ACAT)
ACAT is a statewide organization established in 1997 and dedicated to achieving environmental health and justice. The mission is to assure justice by advocating for environmental and community health. ACAT works to eliminate the production and release of harmful chemicals by industry and military sources; ensure community right-to-know; achieve policies based on the precautionary principle; and support the rights and sovereignty of Indigenous Peoples.

Autism Society of America – Vote4Autism Campaign
The Autism Society Vote4Autism Campaign site keeps the public connected to what is going on in the state and federal government. The “Take Action” links let people instantly tell their legislators what they think about legislation that affect people with autism.

Californians for Pesticide Reform


Pesticide Biomonitoring Study with Farmworkers in Lindsay, California.

Centers for Disease Control Biomonitoring Program http://www.cdc.gov/biomonitoring/

Collaborative on Health and the Environment (CHE)
CHE works to strengthen the science dialogue on environmental factors impacting human health and to facilitate collaborative efforts to address environmental health concerns. Founded in 2002, CHE is an international partnership of over 3,500 individuals and organizations in 45 countries and 48 states, including scientists, health professionals, health-affected groups, nongovernmental organizations and other concerned citizens, committed to improving human and ecological health. CHE maintains a comprehensive listing of environmental health science-based resources, searchable by health issue, environmental/toxic issue and target audience.


Commonweal, founded in 1976, is a health and environment research institute and education center that houses 11 major programs--including the Collaborative on Health and the Environment, Biomonitoring Resource Center and the Cancer Help Program. Over the past 34 years, Commonweal has developed programs of national and often international distinction in seven major areas of work—cancer care, health care, juvenile justice, environmental health science and policy, oceans and marine life, permaculture gardening, and continuing adult education through collaborative learning.

Contaminated without Consent


A 17 minute introductory video on chemical exposure, our health, and how business is responding.

Earliest Exposures Biomonitoring Study


Pregnant women tested for chemicals in their bodies by Washington Toxics Coalition and Commonweal.

Environmental Justice For All


A tour of chemically contaminated communities of color and the health effects found there. Video available.

Environmental Protection Agency


Toxic Release Inventory data to find out what chemicals are contaminating communities in many areas.

Environmental Working Group (EWG)
EWG specializes in providing useful resources to consumers while simultaneously pushing for national policy change. Their 2009 study of babies of color cord blood and chemicals can be found: http://www.ewg.org/minoritycordblood/home

Learning and Developmental Disabilities Initiative (LDDI)

LDDI is an international partnership fostering collaboration among learning and developmental disability organizations, researchers, health professionals and environmental health groups to address concerns about the impact environmental pollutants may have on neurological health. LDDI, one of the Collaborative on Health and the Environment’s major working groups, currently has over 400 organizational and individual participants engaged in educational and policy efforts. The LDDI site hosts an extensive list of resources on learning and developmental disabilities, including fact sheets and practice prevention columns summarizing the environmental health science for non-scientists, biomonitoring reports and peer-reviewed summaries of the scientific information regarding environmental influences on LDDs and other neurological disorders.

The Endocrine Disruption Exchange
TEDX, founded by Dr. Theo Colborn, is a non-profit organization dedicated to compiling and disseminating the scientific evidence on the health and environmental problems caused by low-dose exposure to chemicals that interfere with development and function, called endocrine disruptors.

Environmental Health News
Daily links to top stories in the news about environmental health. This free news service can be subscribed to on the website.

Hazardous Chemicals in Health Care

This 2009 study by Physicians for Social Responsibility and Clean New York biomonitored physicians, nurses, and health care workers.

Healthy Building Network


The mission of HBN is to transform the market for building materials to advance the best environmental, health and social practices.

Healthy Child Healthy World
Healthy Child Healthy World is leading a movement that educates parents, supports protective policies, and engages communities to make responsible decisions, simple everyday choices, and well-informed lifestyle improvements to create healthy environments where children and families can flourish.

Human placenta cells die after BPA exposure Benachour, N and A Aris. Toxic effects of low doses of Bisphenol-A on human placental cells. Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology doi:10.1016/j.taap.2009.09.005.

Environmental health News analysis http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/newscience/human-placental-cells-die-after-bpa-exposure

Is It In Us?

A 2007 biomonitoring project focused on 35 Americans in seven states

Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA)
LDA is the leading advocate for laws and policies that create opportunities for people with learning disabilities. This resource includes LDA’s legislative agenda, news from Washington, DC and legislative resources for advocates.

The Louisville Charter for Safer Chemicals
The Louisville Charter provides a roadmap for creating a safe and healthy environment through innovation. The Charter is a living document to guide policymakers toward chemicals policy reform that protects us all. It is endorsed by many labor groups, environmental health and justice organizations.

National Association of Dually Diagnosed (NADD)
NADD maintains a listing of US public policy updates related to learning, developmental, neurological, and mental health problems.

Pesticide Action Network-North America
Pesticide Action Network North America (PAN North America, or PANNA) works to replace the use of hazardous pesticides with ecologically sound and socially just alternatives. One of five PAN Regional Centers worldwide, this network challenges the global proliferation of pesticides, defends basic rights to health and environmental quality, and works to ensure the transition to a just and viable society.

Prenatal Exposure to Flame Retardant Compounds Affects Neurodevelopment of Young Children, January 19, 2010, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University


Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment (PRHE)
The Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment (PRHE) at the University of California in San Francisco (UCSF) is dedicated to creating a healthier environment for human reproduction and development by advancing scientific inquiry, clinical care and health policies that prevent exposures to harmful chemicals in our environment.

Safer States
A network of diverse environmental health coalitions and organizations in 16 states around the country working on state legislation for environmental health protections from chemicals

Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families
www.saferchemicals.org <http://www.saferchemicals.org>
Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families is a groundbreaking coalition of diverse groups united by their common concern about toxic chemicals in our homes, places of work, and products we use every day. SCHF is working to reform the nation's failed toxics chemical law to protect public health and the environment.

United Nations’ POPs Chemicals


This international body works to regulate Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) such as DDT.

United States Government Accountability Office


Report to Congress on Biomonitoring and EPA.

Women’s Voices for the Earth
Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE) is a national organization that engages women to advocate for the right to live in a health environment. WVE seeks to reduce and ultimately eliminate environmental pollutants that cause health problems for women.