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Research Review

Mount Sinai Publishes List of Top Ten Chemicals Contributing to Autism, Learning Disabilities

An editorial published in Environmental Health Perspectives calls for increased research to identify possible environmental causes of autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders in America's children and presents a list of ten target chemicals including which are considered highly likely to contribute to these conditions.

Philip Landrigan, MD, MSc, a world-renowned leader in children’s environmental health and director of the Children's Environmental Health Center at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, coauthored the editorial, entitled “A Research Strategy to Discover the Environmental Causes of Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disabilities.”

The editorial was published alongside four other papers—each suggesting a link between toxic chemicals and autism.

The National Academy of Sciences reports that 3% of all neurobehavioral disorders in children, such as autism spectrum disorder and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, are caused by toxic exposures in the environment and that another 25%are caused by interactions between environmental factors and genetics. But the precise environmental causes are not yet known. While genetic research has demonstrated that autism and certain other neurodevelopmental disorders have a strong hereditary component, many believe that environmental causes may also play a role.

“A large number of the chemicals in widest use have not undergone even minimal assessment of potential toxicity and this is of great concern,” says Landrigan. “Knowledge of environmental causes of neurodevelopmental disorders is critically important because they are potentially preventable.”

The following list of ten chemicals are found in consumer products and are suspected to contribute to autism and learning disabilities:

1. Lead
2. Methylmercury
3. PCBs
4. Organophosphate pesticides
5. Organochlorine pesticides
6. Endocrine disruptors
7. Automotive exhaust
8. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
9. Brominated flame retardants
10. Perfluorinated compounds

— Source: Mount Sinai Medical Center