Our children can be exposed to chemicals that harm the brain and nervous system where they live, play and learn.
The health effects of these neurotoxic chemicals are so widespread that many doctors and scientists refer to this as a “silent epidemic.”
Even at low levels, neurotoxic chemicals can have lifelong health consequences when encountered during the first 1,000 days of development—in utero to age two.
Low-income communities are at even greater risk of exposure. The burden of toxic chemicals adds to other health and psychosocial disadvantages these vulnerable populations face.
While toxic chemicals are not the sole cause for lifelong learning and developmental deficits, they are among the most preventable.
It is within our reach to protect the capacity for learning and the growth potential for millions of children and reduce both community and individual expenditures on special education, social services and specialized health care.
Estimates of these soaring costs include:
$130 Billion per year
Special education for the estimated 20 million children struggling with a developmental brain disorder.
$4,100—$6,200 per year
The average additional medical expenditures for individuals with an autism spectrum disorder.
The estimated combined annual cost of medical expenses and lost productivity from exposure to toxic flame retardants, pesticides and other chemicals.
In July 2016 the science journal Environmental Health Perspectives published a groundbreaking consensus statement signed by 47 leading scientists, health care professionals and children’s environmental health advocates and endorsed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Endocrine Society, among others. The Project TENDR statement, which stands for Targeting Environmental Neuro-Developmental Risks, ends with this sentence:
We are confident that reducing exposures to chemicals that can interfere with healthy brain development will help to lower the prevalence of neurodevelopmental disabilities, and thus enable many more children to reach their full potential.
What We're Doing
At Healthy Babies Bright Futures (HBBF), we design our work to measurably reduce the largest sources of babies’ exposures to toxic chemicals that harm brain development. We target chemicals with the strongest body of evidence supporting their role in developmental harm. Our portfolio aims to reduce early-life exposures to arsenic, phthalates, flame retardants, lead, organophosphate pesticides (OPs), and air pollutants called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). We are also supporting efforts to decrease the levels of mercury, perchlorate, PCBs, and emerging neurotoxins like per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS chemicals).
Our work will help decrease the prevalence of learning and behavioral problems like autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. As the Project TENDR statement concludes, this work is “urgently needed if we are to protect healthy brain development so that current and future generations can reach their fullest potential.”