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For the first time since the US government has been collecting data on it, the top five disabilities affecting U.S. children are no longer physical problems, but rather, mental problems, as reported recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Additionally, almost 8 percent of children now have a disability that limits their activity, a four-fold increase since 1960.

One of the suggested reasons for the increase in mental health disorders is the, “exposure to new or more environmental toxins during pregnancy and early childhood.” Improvements in diagnosis were also suggested as a contributor to the increased rate. Although conclusions about what has caused the increase are premature, we will certainly be seeing more research in the coming years.

“In terms of reduced economic outcomes, mental health issues in childhood are a serious problem, way bigger than obesity,” stated James P. Smith, a researcher of child health histories. The report stated that only about half of children with mental health problems get any kind of services, highlighting the gravity of the issue.

Bruce Lanphear, professor of health sciences at Simon Fraser University in Canada, stated that prevention of children’s disabilities in the first place will be more effective than treating them. “Children, who are more vulnerable than adults to adverse effects from environmental toxins are sometimes exposed to numerous chemicals that may be contributing to mental and developmental problems,” stated Lanphear.

The report went on to cite studies linking environmental exposures to mental health in children, including, “the association of black carbon (an airborne byproduct of fossil-fuel combustion) with reduced verbal and nonverbal intelligence and poor memory; of low lead exposure with lower IQ scores; prenatal exposure to tobacco with ADHD; and organophosphate pesticides, mercury, and PCBs with ADHD. Lamphear’s own research found associations between prenatal exposure to bisphenol A and depressive symptoms, anxiety, and hyperactivity in young girls.”

We can no longer deny or turn our backs on the fact that environmental toxins are taking an enormous toll on our health.

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A recent study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found that in almost all of 268 pregnant women tested, eight different types of chemicals were found in their bodies. Chemicals found include pesticides, flame retardants, PFCs from non-stick cookware, phthalates, car exhaust pollutants and even DDT, a chemical that has been banned since 1979!

These toxins can pass right through the placenta and into the fetus. In fact, a previous study, done by the Environmental Working Group, found that unborn babies carry over 200 different chemicals in their bodies, even before they are born.

The study in pregnant women looked for 163 different chemicals, so it only scratches the surface, because over 80,000 new chemicals are introduced each year. The chemical bisphenol A (BPA) was found in 96 percent of these women. Prenatal BPA exposure has been linked to adverse health outcomes, affecting brain development and susceptibility to cancer in later life.

Certain chemical levels found in these women were at levels known to be harmful to children. While concerning, this does not even take into account the additive effect that chemicals have, which is considered to be more dangerous because new chemical compounds can be formed when chemicals mix, and little is known about the possible consequences of this.

Toxins are everywhere. We live in a toxic soup. We can reduce our exposure, but we cannot prevent it. That’s why a healthy diet, plenty of exercise, and supporting the health of the body’s channels of elimination (colon, liver, kidneys, lymph, blood, lungs and skin) are so vital to reducing the harmful effects that toxins can have on our health.

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