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TOWARDS A WORLD FREE OF CHEMICALS

Brain MRI scans showed that children with sub-optimal development of certain areas of the brain seemed more vulnerable to the effects of PCBs. The smaller the splenium (the back part of the bundle of fibres joining the two brain hemispheres), the larger the association between PCBs and response inhibition.

Indeed, measurable effects on the brain seem to occur with ADHD and patients have been found to have smaller brain volumes than normal children. This gives weight to the suggestion that ADHD is a real, biologically-based phenomenon, and not just a disorder conjured up by neurotic parents.

Autism: There is a concern that autism may be partly linked to chemical exposures, and that this developmental disorder has increased in recent years. Autism, a brain condition that is evident prior to three years of age, affects a persons’ ability to form relationships and to behave normally in everyday life...

Recent findings...point out that to produce autism, it is necessary to have both susceptible genes, as well as some environmental (e.g. chemical) assault on these genes. Many chemicals have been mentioned as possibly playing a role. These include metals, some organochlorine and organobromine compounds, and some pharmaceuticals...Mercury has been the focus of much concern, both with regard to infant exposure...and with regard to exposure in the womb, largely due to mothers eating fish contaminated with mercury and particularly because it seems that mercury levels in the umbilical cord of newborns are higher than in their mother’s blood...

The United States of America Institute of Medicine is reviewing all the evidence on the potential effects of mercury in vaccines and will report later in 2004... Translated nationally, around half-a-million people may suffer from autism spectrum disorders. The rates of autism itself are lower and estimated to be 16.8 per 10,000, or one in 600 children.

It is clear that hazardous industrial chemicals dramatically affect our quality of life. Children and wildlife have a right not to be contaminated. Parents have a right to expect that the products they buy for their homes and the toys they buy for their children are safe and harmless. Man-made chemicals should have adequate safety data and should be neither bio- accumulative nor persistent, unless persistence is a required property as in some construction materials. No unnecessary risk is acceptable where our children and our future are concerned, and where safer alternatives are available.

...Many persistent and bio-accumulative chemicals, such as DDT and PCBs, have been banned too late to prevent damage. Many more... chemicals, which take a very long time to break down in the environment and build up in living things, are in use today. Such chemicals should be phased out, irrespective of their currently-known toxicity, because it is almost impossible to predict and test for the long-term effects of low-level exposures that may take years to appear in humans and other animals. If we get it wrong, it is our children who will pay the price.

The European Union is negotiating new chemical legislation to regulate industrial chemicals. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a safer future for our children and wildlife.

World Wide Foundation is calling for legislation to: phase out chemicals that are persistent and bio-accumulative; phase out endocrine- disrupting chemicals; and substitute these chemicals with safer alternatives and allow their continued use only where there is an overwhelming societal need, where no safer alternatives exist, and where measures to minimize exposure are put in place.

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