They’re calling it a silent pandemic. Children all over the world are losing brain power because they’re exposed to toxins in our water, food, furniture, and clothing. Dr. David Bellinger of the National Institutes of Health estimates Americans alone have lost a total of 41 million IQ points through exposure to neurotoxins. Last year, his research was corroborated by a study that linked not only IQ loss, but also ADHD and autism spectrum disorder to twelve widespread toxins.

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The culprits are: manganese, fluoride, chlorpyrifos, DDT/DDE, tetrachloroethylene (PERC), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), arsenic, lead, mercury, toluene, ethanol, and polychlorinated byphenols (PCBs). Some of these toxins are old news. Arsenic is a well-known poison; lead has long been outlawed in paint, gasoline, and toys; mercury is no longer used in thermometers; PCBs were banned in 1979 and DDT in 1972—though both of the latter toxins still occur in the environment. But what about fluoride? Doesn’t the dentist actually brush that stuff on my kids’ teeth every year—in chocolate mint or bubblegum flavors? Why should I worry about ethanol if I’m putting it in my car? And how can I avoid these other chemicals I can’t even pronounce, let alone spell?

Related: 5 homemade all-natural cleaning substitutes to keep your home safe and free of toxins

It appears you can’t, not completely. Many of these chemicals—even those that have been banned—have permeated our environment so thoroughly that they can’t be avoided. Eating organic food can help some, especially if you’re pregnant; it can reduce exposure to pesticides like chlorpyrifos by 80 to 90 percent. And yes, fluoride is beneficial in low doses, but toxic in high ones.

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In fact, for many of these toxins, the dosage level makes a big difference. Laura Plunkett, an industry-linked toxicologist, claims that the EPA regulates pesticide use to such a degree that “if they’re used in agriculture, people are exposed to very, very low levels.” Maybe, or maybe not, as the recent study’s scientists believe pesticides can harm developing nervous systems.

Related: INFOGRAPHIC: Learn How to Defend Yourself Against Harmful Chemicals Hidden in Your Home

These claims are scary enough. But the real question is why are companies allowed to use these chemicals before they’ve been significantly tested? What other neurotoxins—future DDTs or PCBs—are being developed and released into the environment as we speak?

+The Atlantic

Via Business Insider

Images via CGP Grey, MalingeringPeter Gibson, and val’sphotos, Flickr Creative Commons