December 4, 2023
The good news is that IQ loss due to childhood exposure to lead and mercury has declined significantly in the U.S, most likely due to decades-long efforts aimed at restricting the use of these heavy metals. The bad news is that common household chemicals such as flame retardants and pesticides have taken the place of toxic metals as the biggest environmental contributors to IQ loss.
According to an , the Science Magazine website, researchers at NYU Grossman School of Medicine found that despite a significant drop in IQ loss from toxic metals from 2001 to 2016, “the proportion of cognitive loss that results from exposure to chemicals used in flame retardants, called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PDBEs), and organophosphate pesticides increased from 67 percent to 81 percent during the same study period.”
Experts agree that among other negative effects, “exposure at a young age to these toxins can cause learning disabilities, autism, and behavioral issues.”
Given the pervasive use of these chemicals in everything from upholstery to tuna fish, exposure is hard to avoid, and industry standards are not stringent enough to prevent problems. Abigail Gaylord, the lead researcher of this study said, “Our findings suggest that our efforts to reduce exposure to heavy metals are paying off, but that toxic exposures in general continue to represent a formidable risk to Americans’ physical, mental, and economic health. Unfortunately, the minimal policies in place to eliminate pesticides and flame retardants are clearly not enough.”