Disability advocates join call for reduced toxic chemical exposure

Tractor spraying chemicals on a field of crops
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A group of disability advocates has teamed up with a coalition of medical and children’s health advocates to produce a first-of-its-kind consensus statement, which the ARC is describing as a “national call to action that seeks to significantly reduce exposures to chemicals and pollutants” contributing to the increases prevalence of certain developmental disabilities.

Under the umbrella of Project TENDR: Targeting Environmental Neuro-Developmental Risk, the advocates are calling for a more preventive approach to regulating toxic chemicals, in favor of forcing companies to demonstrative that chemicals are safe – especially when exposed to pregnant mothers and infants – before coming onto the market.

“We assert that the current system in the United States for evaluating scientific evidence and making health-based decisions about environmental chemicals is fundamentally broken,” the groups wrote in a statement, published in the July 2016 edition of the scientific journal Environmental Health Perspectives [PDF]. “To help reduce the unacceptably high prevalence of neurodevelopmental disorders in our children, we must eliminate or significantly reduce exposures to chemicals that contribute to these conditions…

“These measures are urgently needed if we are to protect healthy brain development so that current and future generations can reach their fullest potential.”

The statement identifies a range of particularly damaging chemicals. Among its proposed solutions, Project TENDR calls for further efforts to curb air pollution, remediate old lead pipes, phase out certain pesticides and a ban of endocrine-disrupting chemicals used in food packaging and plastics.

According to the statement, in the past decade, the number of children born with “learning disabilities, ADHD, autism and other developmental delays” has increased “alarmingly.” Although part of the increase is certainly due to improved reporting requirements and increased awareness, the advocates have little doubt of the significance of toxic chemicals to this trend.

“Our failures to protect children from harm underscore the urgent need for a better approach to developing and assessing scientific evidence and using it to make decisions,” the statement reads. “We as a society should be able to take protective action when scientific evidence indicates a chemical is of concern, and not wait for unequivocal proof that a chemical is causing harm to our children.”

The ARC  and the Learning Disabilities Association of America are among the  signees to the statement.