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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Columbia Scientists Call for Action to Reduce Toxic Exposures in the Environment

An unprecedented alliance of leading scientists, medical experts, and children’s health advocates — known as Project TENDR (“Targeting Environmental Neuro-Developmental Risks”) — argue that today’s scientific evidence supports a link between exposures to toxic chemicals in food and everyday products and children’s risks for neurodevelopmental disorders. The alliance is calling for immediate action to significantly reduce exposures to toxic chemicals to protect brain development. Dr. Frederica Perera, Mailman School director of the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health, and Dr. Virginia Rauh, professor of Population and Family Health, are signatories to the statement published online in Environmental Health Perspectives.

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[Photo: Dr. Frederica Perera (left) and Dr. Virginia Rauh]

“There is now overwhelming scientific evidence that early-life exposure to environmental toxins is linked with a host of health problems in children,” says Dr. Perera, a professor of environmental health sciences. “Because exposure to these chemicals is widespread, in some cases pervasive, action is warranted to reduce their production and use.”

Neurodevelopmental disorders linked to environmental exposures include intellectual disability, autism spectrum disorder, attention deficits, hyperactivity, and learning disabilities.

Prime examples of the chemicals and pollutants that are contributing to children’s learning, intellectual and behavioral impairment include:

Drs. Perera and Rauh are calling on government to remove these toxic chemicals from food and consumer products so that pregnant women and children are not exposed. In addition, they urge regulators to follow scientific guidance for assessing how chemicals affect brain development, such as taking into account the special vulnerabilities of the developing fetus and children, all sources of exposure to neurotoxic chemicals, and the lack of a safety threshold for many of these chemicals. Among action items, they call on businesses to eliminate chemicals harmful to brain development from their supply chains and products.

Project TENDR is an alliance of 48 of the nation’s top scientists, health professionals and health advocates. TENDR Participants have come together across many disciplines and sectors, including epidemiology, toxicology, exposure science, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, nursing, public health, and federal and state chemical policy. Medical and scientific societies that have signed on in support include American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Endocrine Society, National Medical Association, National Hispanic Medical Association and the National Council of Asian Pacific Island Physicians. TENDR’s long-term mission is to lower the incidence of neurodevelopmental disorders by reducing exposure levels to chemicals and pollutants that can contribute to these conditions, especially during fetal development and early childhood. Project TENDR is a joint endeavor of the Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA) and the University of California Davis MIND Institute (Medical Investigations of Neurodevelopmental Disorders).