KEY POINTS

  • Researchers identified chemicals that are most harmful to children
  • Toxic chemicals resulted in a loss of 162 million IQ points among children
  • The researchers said the effects of the chemicals are irreversible

A new study has revealed that exposure to toxic chemicals has resulted in a permanent loss of over 160 million IQ points among children. The researchers who conducted the study noted that most of these harmful chemicals can be found at home.

The study, which was published in the journal Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology, focused on the development of children in the U.S. between 2001 and 2016. During the course of the study, the researchers identified chemicals that are as harmful as lead and mercury when it comes to the brain development of children.

According to the researchers, pollutants such as pesticides and flame retardants are the leading causes of the drop of IQ among children. They discovered that during the 15-year period of the study, children in the U.S. lost 78 million IQ points due to lead while pesticides led to a loss of 27 million points. Mercury, on the other hand, resulted in a loss of 2.5 million IQ points. As for flame retardants, the chemicals caused a loss of over 54 million IQ points.

Unfortunately, the researchers noted that the cognitive effects these chemicals have on children are irreversible.

“Kids' brain development is exquisitely vulnerable,” Leo Trasande, a pediatrician and public health researcher for the New York University, told Business Insider. “If you disrupt, even with subtle effects, the way a child's brain is wired, you can have permanent and lifelong consequences.”

Despite the regulations on harmful chemicals, Trasande and his colleagues noted that children can still get exposed to harmful toxins even when they’re at home. For instance, children are in danger of consuming pesticides if these chemicals linger on the food products that they eat.

As for flame retardants such as diphenyl and polybrominated ethers, these can be commonly found in household furniture, electronics, carpets and even children’s toys.

Trasande noted that stronger regulations, such as those imposed on the use of lead and mercury, should be applied to products that use pesticides and flame retardants. Aside from restrictions, the researcher also suggested ways to protect children from these chemicals at home such as vacuuming frequently.

Trasande also said opening windows to get rid of dust-laced flame retardants can help reduce the presence of these chemicals.

“We've made less progress in phasing out or banning some of the pesticides of greatest concern,” he stated. “But there are steps we can take proactively as consumers.”