Research On Environmental Toxins As A Cause

There is a large amount of research being conducted on what developmental delays are, how to address them, how to identify them, and what types there are. Possibly even more important is the research being conducted on what the causes of developmental delays are. Ted Schettler's article makes it very clear right from the beginning that the information stated is still new and unsure, and a lot of research is still needed on the topic. At the same time, the article demonstrates that it is important to understand what research we do have.

There are currently 12 million children under the age of 18 in the United States that suffer from some type of developmental delay, impairment, or learning disability. Interestingly, Schettler says that 50% of each problem can be attributed to genetics, but 50% can also be attributed to environmental factors. Before we look at these factors, it is important to understand what developmental problems are. The article defines them as ranging from mildly impaired social skills to severe autism. It is a widely known fact that exposing unborn children to alcohol leads to problems after birth, such as hyperactivity and cognitive defects, and that mothers who smoke while pregant risk their children being born with low IQ, attentivity, and learning abilities. In addition, when young children are exposed to lead, it is not uncommon for them to develop with lower learning levels, attention, IQ, as well as higher levels of aggression.

This article describes four specific toxins that are being researched in regards to their effects on developmental delays in children. Exposure to mercury (mostly from eating spoiled fish) has so far been found to cause seizures, mental retardation, psychomotor retardation, as well as developmental delays. Mercury can also cause a lowering of IQ, language development, visual-spatial skills, gross motor skills, memory and attention (all of which can lead to developmental delays). Manganese is another toxin that has been found to cause movement disorders which delays development in motor skills, as well as ADHD and inappropriate behavior. Exposure to manganese comes from breast milk, which usually has a certain level that is perfectly healthy for babies, and baby milk formula, which sometimes has too much manganese. Gasoline also contains this toxin, and research is being performed to find out if being exposed to it can cause developmental delays in children. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) is a toxin that has been found to cause delays in psychomotor development, cognitive development, IQ, and hyporeflexia. In addition, it decreases thyroid hormone levels that are very important to brain development. Lastly, the article mentions that there is not nearly enough research or findings about pesticides and their affect on children's development, but it has been found that motor skills, memory, attention, and learning development is definitely decreased through increased exposure to pesticides.

In conclusion, it is important to search for and discover the causes of different developmental delays because of the many problems they cause for society. For example, families that include children with developmental delays experience increased stress, there are high costs for the research involved, and Special Education programs and services drain resources from other needs. Looking into toxins as causes for such delays seems a logical thing to do, especially if it will help to prevent developmental delays for children in the future.

Schettler, Ted. Toxic Threats to Neurologic Development of Children. Environmental Health Perspectives, VO : 109. Dec., 2001. PP : 813-816 Copyright 2001 The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).