New research from New York University shows that pesticides and flame retardants may pose a growing threat to a child’s IQ — perhaps more than lead or mercury.
Exposure to flame retardants resulted in a loss of 162 million IQ points among children from 2001 to 2016.
A public-health researcher called these toxins “hit-and-run” chemicals because the damage can be sudden and cannot be reserved.
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The chemicals we’ve long feared the most — heavy metals like lead and mercury — are less of a threat to kids’ developing brains than they were two decades ago. But two new menaces may be taking their place: pesticides and flame retardants.
According to new research from New York University, flame retardants resulted in a loss of 162 million IQ points among children in the US between 2001 and 2016.
The study, published Tuesday in the journal Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology, looked at the four chemicals known to impact the brain of a developing child most: lead, mercury, pesticides, and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (otherwise known as flame retardants).
Leo Trasande, a pediatrician and public-health researcher at NYU who co-authored the study, described these pollutants as “hit-and-run” chemicals: Once a child is exposed to them, there’s no reversing the damage.
“Kids’ brain development is exquisitely vulnerable,” Trasande told Business Insider. “If you disrupt, even with subtle effects, the way a child’s brain is wired, you can have permanent and lifelong consequences.”
The study found that lead cost US kids 78 million IQ points during the 15-year period studied, while pesticides caused a loss of nearly 27 million IQ points during those years. Mercury, meanwhile, caused a loss of 2.5 million IQ points.
Children’s’ lower IQs are costing the US trillions of dollars
The researchers found that among kids exposed to toxins from 2001 to to 2016, the proportion of IQ loss due to exposure to flame retardants and pesticides increased from 67% to 81%. Flame retardants can be found in household furniture and electronics, while pesticides can be consumed when they linger on produce.
“What we found was quite striking,” Trasande said. “We know that there is no safe level of lead exposure. The same is true for methylmercury, pesticides, and flame retardants.”
The study also found that there is an economic cost to childhood brain damage: Trasande said that each individual IQ point is worth roughly 2% of a child’s lifetime economic productivity. So if a child could potentially make $1 million over the course of their lifetime, they would lose $20,000 for every IQ point lost.
“A kid’s brain power is the engine of our economy,” Trasande said. “If a child comes back from school with one less IQ point, maybe mom or the parent might not notice. But if 100,000 children come back with one less IQ point, the entire economy notices.”
According to the researchers, IQ loss due to lead, mercury, flame retardants, and pesticide exposure combined cost the US around $6 trillion from 2001 to 2016.
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Source:: Business Insider