Trends in neurodevelopmental disability burden due to early life chemical exposure in the USA from 2001 to 2016: A population-based disease burden and cost analysis
PBDE (chemicals from Flame Retardants) exposure was the greatest contributor to intellectual disability burden, resulting in a total of 162 million IQ points lost and over 738,000 cases of intellectual disability.
Abigail Gaylord, Gwendolyn Osborne, Akhgar Ghassabian, Julia Malits, Teresa Attina, Leonardo Transande; Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology; Online: 14 January 2020. doi 10.1016/j.mce.2019.110666.
Endocrine disrupting chemicals are known to cause neurodevelopmental toxicity through direct and indirect pathways. In this study we used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, along with known exposure-disease relationships, to quantify the intellectual disability burden attributable to in utero exposure to polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs commonly known as Flame Retardants), organophosphates, and methylmercury and early life exposure to lead. We also estimated the cost of the IQ points lost and cases of intellectual disability. PBDE exposure was the greatest contributor to intellectual disability burden, resulting in a total of 162 million IQ points lost and over 738,000 cases of intellectual disability. This was followed by lead, organophosphates, and methylmercury. From 2001 to 2016, IQ loss from PBDEs, methylmercury, and lead have decreased or remained stagnant. Organophosphate exposure measurements were only available up to 2008 but did show an increase in organophosphate-attributable IQ loss. Although most of these trends show benefit for children’s neurodevelopmental health, they may also point towards the use of potentially harmful substitutions for chemicals that are being phased out.
In utero exposure to methylmercury from power plants and seafood is associated with lifelong loss of intelligence and billions of dollars in lost productivity.
Trasande L, Landrigan PJ, Schechter C. Public health and economic consequences of methyl mercury toxicity to the developing brain. Environmental Health Perspectives. 2005;113(5):590-596.
This study shows that the IQ losses associated with methylmercury toxicity cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars in lost productivity each year. Hundreds of thousands of American children in any given year have cord blood levels of methylmercury associated with lowered intelligence, traceable to in utero exposure to power plant emissions or to maternal seafood consumption. The loss of intelligence that results “causes diminished economic productivity that persists over the entire lifetime of these children”—amounting to about $8.7 billion annually.