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We're poisoning our kids, toxins report says
Every year, U.S. industry releases about 24 billion pounds of toxic substances that are believed to cause developmental and neurological problems in children.
That amount could fill a string of railroad cars stretching from New York City to Albuquerque, New Mexico, and yet there are no emissions standards for these harmful chemicals.
This alarming finding is one of many in Polluting Our Future: Chemical Emissions in the U.S. that Affect Child Development and Learning, a joint report released Thursday by the National Environmental Trust, Physicians for Social Responsibility and the Learning Disabilities Association.
"That is the most startling thing," said Jeff Wise, policy director for NET. "The amount and how little we know about the chemicals."
The collaborative effort to produce Polluting Our Future came about in response to recent reports issued by the National Academy of Sciences. These studies indicate a growing consensus among leading scientists that neurological and developmental toxins are responsible for a wide range of physical and mental problems among children.
Polluting Our Future looks closely, for the first time ever, at the scope and sources of neurological and developmental air pollutants.
"This is the first complete snapshot we've ever had of toxic pollution in this country that can affect the way that children's bodies and brains develop," said Wise.
Nearly one in every six, or about 12 million, children in the United States suffers from at least one developmental, learning or behavioral disability such as mental retardation, birth defects, autism or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Polluting Our Future determines that about one in every 200 American children, or more than 360,000, live with developmental or neurological disabilities caused by exposure to toxic substances including developmental and neurological toxins.
The report also includes information about releases of developmental and neurological toxins on a national level, a ranking of all the 50 states, and data about the top releasing counties, industries and facilities across the country. All figures are gleaned from data reported by industry to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as is required by law.
According to industry-reported data used in the report, Louisiana and Texas emit the most developmental and neurological toxins to air and water. Tennessee, Ohio, Illinois, Georgia, Virginia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Florida each release a significant amount of these toxins as well.
Electric utilities, chemical manufacturers and the makers of paper, metal and plastics are the largest emitters of neurological and developmental toxins nationwide.
The researchers also found that African Americans are disproportionately affected by the release of developmental and neurological toxins. In 14 out of the 25 counties across the nation found to emit the most of these chemicals, African American populations exceed the U.S. average.
The authors of Polluting Our Future stress that policies must be put in place to lower the health risk for children from neurological and developmental toxins. This would include pre-market screening of new chemicals, stringent testing of substances already on the market, labeling, better pollution reporting, more controls for emissions from electric power plants and exposure and disease monitoring.
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