Fact Sheet

Toxic Chemicals and a Child's Brain Development

  • April 14, 2010

Today, one in six children in the United States has a developmental or learning disability. Some experts say many of these may be due in part to early exposures to toxic chemicals. The number of children diagnosed with these disabilities has increased dramatically over the past four decades. While heightened awareness and changes in diagnostic criteria have contributed to this upsurge, they do not fully explain the rise. A recent National Research Council committee concluded that 3 percent of developmental disabilities are due to toxic exposures in the environment and that another 25 percent result from gene-environment interactions.

These disabilities are costly to families and society. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that each person afflicted with an intellectual disability incurs over $1 million in direct and indirect costs during his or her lifetime.

Pew is no longer active in this line of work, but for more information visit the Environmental Health Project (Kid-Safe Chemicals) on PewHealth.org.