Why are learning difficulties increasing?

Sometimes I wonder, and I’m sure you have too, why the incidence of learning and developmental difficulties seems to be increasing. In a society with better standards of living, more research and better medical care you wouldn’t you expect the reverse?

In my work with Sound Therapy I have encountered many, many families facing the journey of seeking help for a child with developmental difficulties. What I have concluded is that it would be so much better if these could be prevented in the first place. But what is the cause?

I have been investigating in this field for some years now, and the evidence is becoming very clear.

Today children are born into a world teeming with toxic chemicals that previous generations never encountered. Research published in the Lancet in 2006 (1) verified that neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism, attention deficit disorder, mental retardation, and cerebral palsy are linked to industrial chemicals such as, lead, methylmercury, polychlorinated biphenyls [PCBs], arsenic, and toluene. These compounds are recognised causes of neurodevelopmental disorders and subclinical brain dysfunction.

Researchers in a variety of studies have found that exposure to chemical toxins during early foetal development can cause brain injury at doses much lower than those affecting adult brain function. For this reason, urgent steps must be taken to protect our children.

Recognition of the risks has led to evidence-based programmes of prevention, such as elimination of lead additives in petrol. Although these prevention campaigns are highly successful, most were initiated only after substantial delays. Another 200 chemicals are known to cause clinical neurotoxic effects in adults. Many chemical exposures occur in the home from the chemical cocktail of cleaning and bathroom products found in most households.

The toxic effects of such chemicals in the developing human brain are not known and these chemicals are not adequately regulated to protect vulnerable children. Sadly, the two main impediments to prevention of neurodevelopmental deficits of chemical origin are the great gaps in testing chemicals for developmental neurotoxicity and the high level of proof required for regulation. Therefore researchers concluded that new, precautionary approaches are needed for testing and control of chemicals which recognise the unique vulnerability of the developing brain.

Meanwhile, families can take steps themselves to learn which chemicals to avoid and protect their children, at least in their own homes. An exciting new initiative called the Help 15 Project is opening the door for many families to do this. Follow this link to see a very moving but encouraging 4 minute video about the project. I hope that some Sound Therapy listeners would like to become involved.

(1) Grandjean, P. Landrigan, P., “Developmental neurotoxicity of industrial chemicals”, The Lancet, Volume 368, Issue 9553, Pages 2167-2178

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