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10 Common Chemicals Linked to Autism and ADHD

With autism now affecting 1 out of every 88 American children, researchers have been scrambling to understand how, in just 10 years, these numbers have jumped a staggering 78 percent, and why ADHD now affects 14 percent of children in the U.S. It was once believed that genetics was the major contributing factor to these illnesses, but that belief is quickly changing as the numbers of children diagnosed with autism and ADHD are skyrocketing. More and more, it is believed that environmental factors play more of a role in autism than genetics do.

And a team of doctors from the Mount Sinai Children’s Environmental Health Center say the answer might be closer to home than we ever suspected. Here, I share the top 10 chemicals they believe are linked to autism, ADHD, and other neurodevelopmental disorders. It is surprising just how common these toxins are.


  • Brominated flame retardants 1 of 10
    Brominated flame retardants
    Not only are flame retardants commonly used on furniture, but they're also found in certain soda and sports drinks. Mothers with high levels of these chemicals in their bodies have children with lower IQs and/or who score poorly on mental and physical development tests.
    Photo: 123RF Stock Photos
  • Organophosphate pesticides 2 of 10
    Organophosphate pesticides
    This pesticide is one of the most widely used farm chemicals. New research suggests that it attacks a developing child's brain much the same way as it attacks the bugs it's used to kill. While buying organic is the recommended way to avoid this and other pesticides not every family can immediately afford to. To compromise, it's suggested that you go organic with the following produce, which has the highest levels of organophosphates: snap beans, watermelon, tomatoes, potatoes, grapes, and pears.
    Photo: 123RF Stock Photos
  • Automotive exhaust 3 of 10
    Automotive exhaust
    Recent studies link air pollution from vehicle exhaust to memory problems, brain damage, and an increased risk of autism. In fact, children born to women living within 1,000 feet of a major highway are twice as likely to have autism, a study found.
    Photo: eutrophication&hypoxia
  • Endocrine disruptors 4 of 10
    Endocrine disruptors
    These chemicals are found in a variety of common household items, such as vinyl shower curtains, perfume, soup cans, plastic food containers, cleaners, and air fresheners. Even the slightest amounts of exposure can lead to low IQ, stunted growth, aggression, and social problems.
    Photo: 123RF Stock Photos
  • Perfluorinated compounds 5 of 10
    Perfluorinated compounds
    Nonstick chemicals increase the risk for ADHD and impulse problems in children. And these toxins aren't just in cookware. They can also be found in certain stain-repellent fabrics used in carpeting and furniture. It's recommended that you use cast iron (so heavy, I know!) or stainless steal pots and pans instead.
    Photo: WordRidden
  • Methylmercury 6 of 10
    Methylmercury
    Mercury pollution most often comes from coal burning, and routinely ends up in bodies of water. This heavy metal is toxic to the brains of developing fetuses, and interferes with normal brain development. We ingest it most commonly through contaminated fish, and it has also been detected in high fructose corn syrup.
    Photo: 123RF Stock Photos
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons 7 of 10
    Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
    PAHs are linked to slower mental development, DNA damage, and impaired fetal growth. So where does it come from? Burning meat, certain driveway sealants, cigarette smoke, dandruff shampoos, and mothballs.
    Photo: Like_the_Grand_Canyon
  • PCBs 8 of 10
    PCBs
    According to the Environmental Protection Agency, "all people in industrial countries have some PCBs in their bodies." The reasoning for that is because PCBs cannot break down in the environment. The only way to reduce your exposure to PCBs is to eat lower on the food chain. But even in low doses, a link to autism exists.
    Photo: The Permaculture Research Institute of Australia
  • Organochlorine pesticides 9 of 10
    Organochlorine pesticides
    Think living in the country is a sure way to keep your family healthy? Studies have shown clusters of autism in farming communities that have sprayed crops with this pesticide. And it's residue is often found on produce. Buying organic is once again the recommended way to go.
    Photo: jschladen
  • Lead 10 of 10
    Lead
    This one we've heard about for a while. It's long been linked to lower IQ levels in children. But it can also cause brain damage in developing babies. Additionally, it's linked to depression in older children. Old paint, old plumbing, fake leather products, vinyl, and PVC can contain high levels of lead.
    Photo: 123RF Stock Photos

Main Photo: BLW Photography

Click here for more information about the Mount Sinai Children’s Health Center study

For more information about these 10 chemicals, click here and here

See how quickly the numbers have changed and what we said about it last year

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