In Neurobehavioural effects of developmental toxicity, published in the Lancet, Dr Philippe Grandjean MD and Philip J Landrigan MD, propose a global prevention strategy to address the impact of developmental neurotoxicants and the increasing numbers of children with developmental disabilities including autism, ADHD and intellectual disabilities. As the article abstract points out the authors had conducted an earlier systematic review and identified five industrial chemicals as developmental neurotoxicants with six additional developmental intoxicants identified since then:
Neurodevelopmental disabilities, including autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia, and other cognitive impairments, affect millions of children worldwide, and some diagnoses seem to be increasing in frequency. Industrial chemicals that injure the developing brain are among the known causes for this rise in prevalence. In 2006, we did a systematic review and identified five industrial chemicals as developmental neurotoxicants: lead, methylmercury, polychlorinated biphenyls, arsenic, and toluene. Since 2006, epidemiological studies have documented six additional developmental neurotoxicants—manganese, fluoride, chlorpyrifos, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, tetrachloroethylene, and the polybrominated diphenyl ethers. We postulate that even more neurotoxicants remain undiscovered. To control the pandemic of developmental neurotoxicity, we propose a global prevention strategy. Untested chemicals should not be presumed to be safe to brain development, and chemicals in existing use and all new chemicals must therefore be tested for developmental neurotoxicity. To coordinate these efforts and to accelerate translation of science into prevention, we propose the urgent formation of a new international clearinghouse.
In 2013 Landrigan, Lambertini and Birnbaum had proposed A Research Strategy to Discover the Environmental Causes of Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disabilities. Autism researchers in particular, and the agencies and institutions that fund them, do not seem to have taken seriously the obvious, yes I said obvious, need to explore environmental causes and triggers of autism and neurodevelopmental disabilities and instead appear to be continuing their obsessive need to find genetic elements that "might" be "associated with" some subsets of autism disorders. The rigid adherence to a non evidence based belief that autism has to be caused by genetic influences, the "it's gotta be genetic" (Teresa Binstock, 1999) paradigm is almost cult like in its persistence in the face of its repeated failure, despite overwhelming funding of genetic based autism research, to find any specific genetic causes of most autism disorders.
We must act now as Grandjean, Landrigan, Lambertini and Birnbaum have proposed and take seriously the harmful effects of neurotoxicants. We must begin to develop a rational, serious global strategy to deal with their harmful impact on generations of children to come.