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CAT | Toxins and Health

brain-toxinsIn yet another study about the damaging effects of toxic chemicals on human health, researchers in Canada have found evidence that everyday toxins may be negatively impacting our intelligence, beginning as early as infancy.

Dr. Bruce Lanphear, a professor at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, says the accumulation of toxins in the body can directly affect the intelligence quotient (IQ) of developing minds. He and his colleagues point to toxic flame retardants (commonly used in furniture and upholstery) as well as bisphenol A (BPA), lead, organophosphate pesticides and mercury as some of the culprits.

Even in small amounts—as little as a few hundred parts per billion, says Lanphear—such chemicals can impact the early brain development of children and lower IQ by as much as five to nine points. Further, the findings suggest kids with the highest levels of exposure may not reach peak intellectual ability.

The conclusion was reached after looking at more than three decades of data on exposure to toxins found commonly in our environment, many of which have been linked (in previous studies) to physical and mental disabilities in children.

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boy-costumeBased on the results of yet another study involving flame retardant chemicals, scientists from the Silent Spring Institute say most Americans are harboring at least a handful of these toxins in their bodies—including one called TDCIPP that was supposedly phased out in the 1970s and one called TCEP that previously hasn’t been seen in Americans.

Study author Robin Dodson and a team of researchers analyzed urine samples from more than a dozen California residents, looking specifically for six “rarely studied” chemicals with a laundry list of health risks including cancer, neurological disorders, and damage to the nervous and reproductive systems. As you might expect, they found evidence of all six substances.

So how are we being exposed to these dangerous chemicals? Possibly just by sitting on the couch or lying in bed, scientists say, since the flame retardants are most often found in the polyurethane foam used to make furniture (along with other textiles, upholstery, carpet and plastics). Further, high amounts of TCEP and TDCIPP in the body were linked to high levels of the chemicals in household dust, pointing to our homes as a primary exposure source.

“When you sit on your couch, you want to relax, not get exposed to chemicals that may cause cancer,” said Dodson in a recent news release. “Some flame retardants have been targeted for phase out, but unfortunately there are others that have largely been under the radar,” she added.

Dodson and her team recommend purchasing furniture made without flame retardant chemicals, as well as vacuuming with a HEPA filter and frequent hand washing (especially before eating) to reduce exposure to the harmful substances.

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