Fact Sheets

Environmental Toxins and Disabilities: A Concern Throughout the Lifespan
This factsheet provides simple answers to frequently asked questions about mental retardation/developmental disabilities and why environmental toxicants are important to consider. This short factsheet can serve as a useful guide for self-advocates and more general community members alike.

AAIDD Fact Sheet on Students with Disabilities in Schools
This is an informative factsheet on environmental concerns in and around the school. The focus of this information is on the special education students and students with disabilities, who may be additionally vulnerable, either due to compromised immune systems or because of environmental conditions in the classroom.

Baby’s Toxic Bottle: A Report on Bisphenol A
Bisphenol A, first synthesized in 1895, was discovered in 1936 to be a synthetic estrogen. The chemical is now utilized in hard, polycarbonate plastics, as well as the epoxy resins used in the linings of some food and beverage containers, dental sealants and numerous other consumer products. Bisphenol A is a developmental, neural, and reproductive toxicant that mimics estrogen and can interfere with healthy growth and body function. Animal studies demonstrate that the chemical causes damage to reproductive, neurological and immune systems during critical stages of development, such as infancy and in the womb. The levels sufficient to cause harm in animals are beneath the average levels reported in people living throughout the developed world. Many scientists now suggest similar damage may be occurring in the human population.

A Primer on Chemicals, Fertility, and Reproduction
This is a fact sheet on some of the big bads of low-level environmental pollution, and what you can do to cut your exposure. Still, it’s not going to be green consumerism that ultimately solves this problem, but green chemistry: by replacing these harmful substances at the manufacturing level with safer alternatives. Making that happen will probably require a hard nudge from lawmakers and regulators.

Linking Environmental Exposures with Psychological Disorders Fact Sheet
– Over the past few decades, research on the neurotoxic effects of lead has predominantly focused on cognitive deficits in children and infants. Evidence demonstrating various learning and behavioural problems resulting from lead exposure is voluminous, and links have been discovered between lead-poisoned children and deficits in a variety of functions.

Lead Poisoning And The Brain – Cognitive Deficits And Mental Illness Fact Sheet
The role of neurotoxicants in the etiology of psychological disorders is increasingly being recognized. A considerable body of research shows that neurotoxic exposures may be associated with deficits in IQ, learning, memory, and attention as well as behavioral changes.

What Can I Do? A Body’s Burden Fact Sheet – What can I do? That’s been the most common response to Inside Bay Area, a California newspaper’s investigation into the chemicals we are carrying around in our bodies. There are no easy answers. Here’s what we know: Phthalates, Brominated Flame Retardants (PBDEs), particulates and perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) contaminate our environment and our bodies almost without exception. In high doses, these chemicals seem to be harmful to animals. Although our exposure to these chemicals is apparently increasing, there’s no solid evidence that they’re doing anything TO us. So the phthalates in your perfume may contribute to the possibility that your children will have reproductive difficulties. Or they may have no effect on you or your family. Nobody knows. But that’s not a very satisfying answer. However, there are steps you can take to reduce the chemical load your body bears. This fact sheet provides useful information adapted from Inside Bay Area.

National Children’s Study Fact Sheet – The National Children’s Study is framed by a set of key scientific research questions that include some of the most pressing health and development concerns for children today. Designed as a longitudinal cohort study, it will examine participants’ growth and development over time. The Study will produce information of unprecedented value for scientists, health professionals, and families around multiple concerns.

Pesticides Fact Sheet – Pesticides are poisons that are meant to kill pests such as rodents and insects as well as weeds and fungi. Many common pesticides contain potent chemicals called neurotoxins that can impact the nervous system and brain. Studies suggest that this is true not only for pests, but for humans as well. In fact, exposures to pesticides have been linked to learning, behavioral, and developmental disabilities.

Pesticides in Produce Fact Sheet – The Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce lists the 12 popular fresh fruits and vegetables that are consistently the most contaminated with pesticides and those 12 fruits and vegetables that consistently have low levels of pesticides. If you are concerned about pesticides in your diet, this handy wallet card can help you choose produce that lowers exposure to pesticides for you and your family.

Toxicants and L/DD Fact Sheet – Learning disabilities, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and emotional and behavioral problems are among childhood disabilities of increasing concern. Genetic, environmental, and social factors have important effects on how children’s brains develop and function. Extensive laboratory and clinical studies of several compounds toxic to neural development, including lead, mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), alcohol, and nicotine, have demonstrated how the developing brain of children is uniquely vulnerable to environmental agents at levels that have no lasting effects in adults. Unfortunately, understanding the effects of these toxicants on the developing brain has emerged slowly while children continue to be exposed to unsafe levels.

Greening the Cleaning – Cleaning products used in homes and other indoor environments can be harmful to our families and our environments. This fact sheet provides some useful information adapted from the Dierdre Imus Environmental Center for Pediatric Oncology for green cleaning products that can be used in place of toxic indoor pesticides and disinfectants. Reducing toxic exposures in the home can be an important and simple first step in avoiding unnecessary harm from environmental toxic exposures.

Eco-Healthy Childcare Solutions – Useful tips for children’s health, taken from the Oregon Environmental Council. This includes safe cleaning methods in the home, information on exposures in the home that may be harmful such as brominated flame retardants in furniture, and plastics and plastic toys.

Smart Plastics Guide
Plastics are widely used to store and package foods and beverages. Uses include disposable and reusable containers, plastic wraps, cutlery, water bottles and baby bottles. Plastic is convenient, lightweight, unbreakable and relatively inexpensive. However, there are both environmental and health risks from the widespread use of plastics. Use this guide to get more information on how the chemicals found in some plastics are linked to developmental and reproductive problems.

Practice Prevention Columns – The Institute for Children’s Environmental Health has provided a list of toxins that impact children’s health. With an emphasis on the effects of neurotoxicants and environmental hazards on the developing human brain, these columns summarize recent scientific research for a nonscientific audience. These also serve as resources for the Collaborative on Health and the Environment’s Learning and Developmental Disabilities Initiative, which ICEH coordinates nationally.

Questions Answered by Environmental Health Nurse, Karen Bowman – On web-based Grist Environmental News and Commentary Newsletter (, Karen Bowman has accomplished her goal: by using her InterActivist platform to rave about the joys of being an occupational- and environmental-health nurse, she piqued the interest of a reader interested in following that line of work. Bowman gives the scoop on OEH nursing, as well as answering reader questions about eco-alternatives to toxic cleaners.

January 19 – Monroe Meyer Institute and Nebraska AAIDD, Omaha, NE:  A two-hour video broadcast across Nebraska entitled, “No Neurotoxicants for Me, Please!  Toxic Exposures and Developmental Disabilities:  What’s the Connection?”  Hosted by Michele (Gagnon) Wagner. There were approximately 100 listeners across the state.

March 15 – National Association for the Dually Diagnosed (NADD), Boston MA:  A one-hour panel presentation with Ted Schettler on the science, Elise Miller on LDDI and Michele (Gagnon) Wagner on the special concerns of the DD population.  NADD serves individuals with a diagnosis of a developmental disability and mental illness.

April 21 – Kansas AAIDD: A two-hour presentation entitled, “Toxic Exposure:  Reducing and Preventing Impact” given by Michele (Gagnon) Wagner.

April 24 – Developmental Disabilities Nurses Association (DDNA), Daytona Beach, FL: This was a one-hour panel presentation with Ted Schettler on scientific issues, Carolyn Graff on practical steps for DD nurses and Michele (Gagnon) Wagner on the special concerns of the DD population.

July 13 – Texas AAIDD Annual Meeting, Corpus Christi, TX:  “Environmental Health for Optimal Health – Concerns of the DD Community.  This was a one hour presentation given by Michele (Gagnon) Wagner.

September 18 – 20 – Neurotoxicology Conference, Little Rock AR:  This was a poster presentation about the special concerns of the DD community that would be displayed as a group presentation with AAIDD, LDDI, LDA, and ASA.

October 9 – Crotched Mountain, New Hampshire:  Crotched Mountain is a 900 person facility with a “university” and hospital that serves the DD community.  Two presentations given by Laura Abulafia – one presentation for nurses and support professionals and one for advocates.

October 12  – 14 – The Arc, San Diego California.  Sharon Davis handed out the AAIDD Wingspread Report and Fliers, and also a poster for Health Promotion booth.  Thanks Sharon Davis!

October 19 – Missouri Association of County Developmental Disability Services:  Two hour presentation given by Cathy Ficker Terrill, provided by Michele (Gagnon) Wagner.

October 30- November 1 –Association of Universities Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) Annual Meeting, Washington DC:  Disseminate information on AAIDD ’s Environmental Health Initiative, attended by Laura Abulafia.

November 4-8 –APHA conference in Boston MA: Elise Miller disseminated AAIDD materials. Thanks Elise!

December 1-3 – AAIDD Mid-Winter Meeting, Washington, DC.:  Short presentation given to AAIDD Membership on the Environmental Health Initiative’s goals for 2007 and accomplishments from 2006. Presentation given by Laura Abulafia.

December 3-5 –CDC National Council on Environmental Health Meeting, Atlanta GA:  Disseminate information on AAIDD ’s Environmental Health Initiative, and network with the DD and Environmental Health Communities. Attended by Laura Abulafia.


“The AAIDD Environmental Health Initiative” presentation was givien by Michele (Gagnon) Wagner at the September 2005 Neurotoxicology Conference in North Carolina. This presentation is a short 15 minute synopsis of the AAIDD Environmental Health Initiative’s goals and activities and is usually part of a panel presentation with other non-profit organizations with similar progams.

“Developmental Disabilities and Environmental Toxics” presentation was givien by Michele (Gagnon) Wagner at the June 2005 National Environmental Health Association’s (NEHA) annual conference in Rhode Island. This is a 45 minute presentation that includes information about the Initiative but also discusses exposures that cause DD and the special concerns of the DD community.

“Developmental Disabilities and Environmental Toxics: Tips to Avoid Exposure” presentation was givien by Michele (Gagnon) Wagner at the Ohio AAIDD State Chapter Meeting in September 2005. This presentation is a 45 minute presentation that focuses on practical tips to avoid toxic exposures in our daily lives.


Reports and Books

“Congress on Assessing and Mitigating Environmental Impacts of Emerging Contaminants”
Presented by Renewable Natural Resources Foundation December 2005

“Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities: The Search for Causes and Cures”
Kim Elliott, MA; Laura M. Segal, MA; Chrissie Juliano, MPP; Jenny Mandel; and Shelley A. Hearne, DrPH. Published by the Trust for America’s Health July 2005

“Sick of Dust Chemicals in Common Products A Needless Health Risk in Our Homes”
Pat Costner, Beverley Thorpe & Alexandra McPherson. By the Safer Products Project. March 2005

“Public Health and Economic Consequences of Methylmercury Toxicity to the Developing Brain”
Leonardo Trasande, Philip J. Landrigan, Clyde Schechter doi:10.1289/ehp.7743 (available at Online 28 February 2005 Environmental Health Perspectives.

“Perchlorate AND Children’s Health – The Case for a Strong Cleanup Standard for Rocket Fuel in Drinking Water”
Travis Madsen and Sujatha Jahagirdar. Environment California Research and Policy Center. January 2005

“Exposure to Environmental Tobacco Smoke and Cognitive Abilities among U.S. Children and Adolescents”
Environmental Health Perspectives Vol. 113 No. 1 January 2005

“Overexpsosed: Organophosphate Insecticides in Children’s Food”
Published by the Environmental Working Group.

“Children At Risk”
How toxic chemicals threaten Oregon’s children and what we can do about it.

“Final Report of the Task Force to Eliminate Childhood Lead Poisoning”
The Michigan Attorney General announces new policy direction to end childhood lead poisoning in Michigan by 2010.

“Growing Up Toxic: Chemical Exposures and Increases in Developmental Disease”
Environment California Policy and Research Center – June 2004.

“Incorporating Envrionmental Health into Pediatric Medical and Nursing Education”
Environ Health Perspect 112: 1755-1760 (2004).

“Family Lead Poisoning Associated with Occupational Exposure”
Clinical Pediatrics November/December 2004

“In Harm’s Way: Toxic Threats to Child Development”
A Report By Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility. Available on line from the Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility website at

“Polluting our future: Chemical pollution in the U.S. that affects child development and learning”
National Environmental Trust

Protecting workers with developmental disabilities
. Applied Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, (2000)


Research Articles and Abstracts

1. Bakir, F., Damluji, D.S., Amin-Zaki, L., Murtadha, M., Khalidi, A., Al-Rawi, N.Y., Tikriti, S., Dhahir, H.I., Clarkson, T.W., Smith, J.C., & Doherty, R.A., (1973). Methylmercury poisoning in Iraq. Science, 181:230-241.

2. Canfield, R.L. et al. (2003, April 17). Intellectual impairment in children with blood lead concentrations below 10 µg per deciliter. New England Journal of Medicine. 348(16): 1517-1526.

3. Cernichiari, E., Toribara, T.Y., Liang, L., Marsh, D.O., Berlin, M.W., Myers, G.J., Coc, C., Shamlaye, C.F., Choisy, O., Davidson, P., & Clarkson, T.W. (1995). The biological monitoring of mercury in the Seychelles study. NeuroToxicology, 16:613-628.

4. Clarkson, T.W. (2002). The three faces of mercury. Environmental Health Perspectives, 110 (Supplement 1):11-23.

5. Claudio, L., Bearer, C.F., & Wallinga, D. (1999). Assessment of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency methods for identification of hazards to developing organisms, Part I: The reproduction and fertility testing guidelines. American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 35(6):543-553.

6. Claudio, L., Kwa, W.C., Russell, A.L., & Wallinga, D. (2002, April 1). Testing methods for developmental neurotoxicity of environmental chemicals. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol, 164(1):1-14. Review.

7. Cox, C., Clarkson, T.W., Marsh, D.O., Amin-Zaki, L., Tikriti, S., & Myers, G.J. (1989). Dose-response analysis of infants prenatally exposed to methylmercury. An application of a single compartment model to single-strand hair analysis. Environ Res, 31: 640-649.

8. Davidson, P., Myers, G., Cox, C., Axtell, C., Shamlaye, C., Sloane-Reeves, J., Cernichiari, E., Needham, L., Choi, A., Wang, Y., Berlin, M., & Clarkson, T.W. (1998). Effects of prenatal and postnatal methylmercury exposure from fish consumption at 66 months of age: the Seychelles child development study. Journal of American Medical Association, 280:665-676.

9. Davidson, P.W., Heller, T., Janicki, M.P., & Hyer, K. (2003). The Tampa Scientific Conference on Intellectual Disability, Aging, and Health. Chicago: Rehabilitation and Research Training Center on Aging with Developmental Disabilities, University of Illinois at Chicago.

10. Dietrich, K., et al. (2000, March 5). Lead exposure linked to antisocial behavior. Lead Safe America.

11. Fitzgerald, W., & Clarkson, T. (1991). Mercury and monomethylmercury: present and future concerns. Environmental Health Perspectives, 96:159-166.

12. Foss, J.A., (1994). The application of a functional observational battery and motor activity test in safety assessment studies, Neurobehavioral Toxicity: Analysis and Interpretation, B. Weiss and J. O’Donoghue, eds., New York: Raven Press.

13. Frumkin, H., et al., (2002). Pediatrician prescription: More environmental training needed. Environmental Health Perspectives, Science Selections, 110(8): A475.

14. Grandjean, P., Weihe, P., Burse, V.W., Needham, L.L., Storr-Hansen, E., Heinzow, B., Debes, F., Murata, K., Simonsen, H., Ellefsen, P., Budtz-Jorgensen, E., Keiding, N., & White, R.F. (2001). Neurobehavioral deficits associated with PCB in 7-year-old children prenatally exposed to seafood neurotoxicants. Neurotoxicol Teratol, 23:305-317.

15. Grandjean, P., Weihe, P., White, R.F., Debes, F., Araki, S., Yokoyama, K., Murata, K., Sorensen, N., Dahl, R., & Jorgensen, P.J. (1997). Cognitive deficit in 7-year-old children with prenatal exposure to methylmercury. Neurotoxicol Teratol, 19: 417-428.

16. Harada, Y., (1968). Congenital (or fetal) Minamata disease. Minamata Disease. Study group of Minamata Disease (Eds). Japan: Kumamoto University, pp 93-118.

17. Hernandez-Avila, M. (2000). Impact of breastfeeding on the mobilization of lead from bone. American Journal of Epidemiology, 155:420-428.

18. Hightower, J.M. & Moore, D. (2003). Mercury levels in high-end consumers of fish. Environmental Health Perspectives, 111(4) 604.

19. Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. Safe, sustainable fish consumption for women and children. Smart guide #1., Minneapolis, MN

20. Jacobs, David, et al. (2002). The prevalence of lead-based paint hazards in U.S. housing. Environmental Health Perspectives, 110:599-A606.

21. Landrigan, P. & Garg, A. (2002). Chronic effects of toxic environmental exposures on children’s health. Chronic Toxicology, 40(4): 449-456.

22. Landrigan, P., Schecter, C., Lipton, J., Fahs, M., & Schwartz, J. Environmental pollutants and disease in American children: Estimates of morbidity, mortality, and costs for lead poisoning, asthma, cancer, and developmental disabilities. Environmental Health Perspectives. 110(7): 721-718.

23. Larson, S., Lakin, K., Anderson, L., Kwak, N., Lee, J., & Anderson, D. (2001). Prevalence of MR and developmental disabilities: Estimates from the 1994/1995 National Health Interview Survey Disability Supplements. American Journal of Mental Retardatio, 106(3): 231-252.

24. Mason, R., Fitzgerald, W., & Morgan, F. (1994). Gecehemico Cosmochinm Acta, 58(15):3191-3194.

25. McKeown-Eyssen, G., Reudy, J., & Neims, A. (1983). Methylmercury exposures in northern Quebec, II: Neurologic findings in children. American Journal of Epidemiology, 118, 470-479.

26. Mendola, P., Selevan, S., Gutter, S., & Rice, D. (2002). Environmental factors associated with a spectrum of neurodevelopmental deficits. Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Research Reviews, 8(3): 188-197.

27. Myers, G., Davidson, P., Cox, C., Shamlaye, C., Palumbo, D., Cernichiari, E., Sloane-Reeves, J., Wilding, J., Kost, J., Huang, L-S., Clarkson, & T.W. Prenatal methylmercury exposure from fish consumption: associations at 9 years of age in the Seychelles Child Development Study. Lancet, in press.

28. Myers. G.J., & Davidson, P.W. (2000). Twenty-seven years studying the human neurotoxicity of methylmercury exposure. Environ Res, 83;275-285.

29. Needleman, H.L. et al. (2002, Nov-Dec). Bone lead levels in adjudicated delinquents. A case control study. Neurotoxicology Teratology, 24(6): 711-7.

30. Newacheck, P., Stein, R., Bauman, L., & Hung, Y. (2003). Disparities in the prevalence of disability between black & white children. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. 157(3) 244-248.

31. Ponessa, Joseph. (2001). Draft curriculum for child care centers to protect young children from environmental toxins. Rutgers University Cooperative Extension, New Brunswick, New Jersey.

32. Rice, D., Evangelista de Duffard, A., Duffard, R., et al. (1996). Lessons for neurotoxicology from selected model compounds: SGOMSEC joint report. Environ Health Perspect 104(suppl 2):205-215.

33. Schroeder, S.R. (2002). MR and developmental disabilities influenced by environmental neurotoxic insults. Environmental Health Perspectives. 108(3): 395-9.

34. Takizawa, Y., & Kitamura, S. (2001). Estimation of the incidence of mercury exposure in the Minamata and Niigata areas using mathematical model from Iraqi poisoning. In Y. Takizawa & M. Osame (eds). Understanding Minamata Disease: Methylmercury Poisoning in Minamata and Niigata Japan. Tokyo: Japan Public Health Association, pp. 27-32.

35. Wallinga. D.B. (1999). Pesticides and developmental neurotoxicity: Assuring children’s safety in the context of the food quality protection act. Neurotoxicology, 20(1):125.

36. Wallinga, David. (1998, April). Putting children first: Making pesticide levels in food safer for infants and children. Natural Resources Defense Council, Washington, D.C., April 1998.

37. World Health Organization. (2001). Healthy ageing-adults with intellectual disabilities: Summative report. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 14: 256-275.