Archives for category: Behavioral Disorders

Professor Brenda Eskenazi discusses the “Environmental Chemical Influences on Neurobehavioral Development of Children: The CHAMACOS Study.”

From U.S. News and World Report, an article about Upstream expert, Dr. Frederica Perera’s most recent study:

Women exposed to higher levels of certain air pollutants while pregnant are more likely to have children with anxiety, depression and attention problems by ages 6 and 7, new research suggests.

“This study provides new evidence that prenatal exposure to air pollution at levels encountered in New York City can adversely affect child behavior,” said Frederica Perera, a professor of environmental health sciences and director of the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

She led the new study, published online March 22 in Environmental Health Perspectives.

The researchers looked at pollutants known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). They are created by the burning of fossil fuels and are common in urban environments. Traffic emissions are a major source of these pollutants.

The study is believed to be the first to link behavior problems in school-age children with two measures of prenatal PAH exposure: air concentrations and a PAH-specific marker found in mothers’ blood samples and umbilical cord blood. The PAH, inhaled by the mom during pregnancy, can cross the placenta, experts know.

Perera’s team followed the children of 253 inner-city women who gave birth between 1999 and 2006. None of the mothers smoked.

The researchers measured the concentrations of PAH in the environment of the mothers for 48 hours during trimester two or three. They also took blood samples from the mothers and the umbilical cords.

In addition, the women answered questions about their children’s behavior, including describing any attention problems, anxiety or depression. The attention problems would not qualify as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, Perera noted.

The investigators found a link between higher PAH exposure levels and behavior problems. “Symptoms of anxiety and depression were 45 percent higher in the higher exposure group versus the lower,” Perera said. Attention problems were 28 percent greater in the higher PAH exposure group.

When the researchers took into account other sources of pollutants such as tobacco smoke and diet, the link remained. However, although the study found an association between prenatal PAH exposure and childhood behavior problems, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

The level of problems were those that could result in referral to a doctor for further evaluation, Perera noted.

Several mechanisms could explain the link, she said. Oxidative stress is one. Or, the chemicals may be “endocrine disrupters, which are capable of affecting the normal signaling that occurs in early brain development.”

Perera plans to follow the children until they are age 12.

“The study by itself is not convincing to me,” said Dr. Victor Klein, an obstetrician-gynecologist who specializes in high-risk pregnancies and is director of patient safety and risk reduction at North Shore-LIJ Health System in Great Neck, N.Y. He reviewed the study and said that “further research has to be done.”


Read other Upstream posts about Dr. Perera’s work, including her Upstream interview videos, click here.

From Environmental Health News (by Lindsey Konkel):

When Deidre Ramos moved with her infant son to the Parker Street section of New Bedford, Mass., little did she know that her new neighborhood was toxic.

Today, a decade later, Ramos is worried about the health of her two sons growing up in a community still contaminated by an old burn dump containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

“What will be the long-term effects on my children?” asked Ramos.

Now new research conducted in New Bedford suggests that these industrial chemicals, which were first linked to learning problems in children more than two decades ago, may play a role in attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), too.

Boys who were exposed to higher levels of PCBs in the womb scored lower on focus and concentration tests, which indicates they are more likely to have attention problems often related to ADHD, according to a newly published study of New Bedford area children.

All of the children studied were born to mothers who lived near the contaminated harbor and dumpsites in these low-income communities, where twice as many people live below the poverty line than the Massachusetts average. But experts say that their exposures were fairly low, comparable to children’s levels throughout much of the United States, which means that a connection between PCBs and attention problems in boys could exist in other communities, too.

Banned in the United States more than 30 years ago, PCBs are long-lived industrial chemicals that accumulate in food chains. Nearly every U.S. resident still has detectable levels in his or her blood. PCBs have the ability to disrupt hormones, which can alter how the brain develops.

“These findings contribute to a growing literature showing associations between PCBs and ADHD-related behavior,” the scientists from Boston University, Harvard University and two other institutions wrote in the study, which was published in late February.

In the study, umbilical cord was collected from 788 newborns from four towns near New Bedford Harbor to see what they were exposed to in the womb. They were born between 1993 and 1998.

Blood from the umbilical cord “is one of the best measures of contaminants being transferred from mother to fetus,” said Sharon Sagiv, lead author of the study and an epidemiologist who now works at Boston University.

Roughly eight years after they were born, almost 600 of these children underwent two tests. One measured their ability to zero in on and react to a specific target  – in this case, the image of a cat on a computer screen — and to inhibit their response to another animal’s image. The other exam included parts of an IQ test that measured their processing speed and distractability, which tests whether they can maintain attention over time.

“It’s like playing whack-a-mole versus watching a radar monitor,” said Paul Eubig, a neuroscientist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Eubig, who studies effects in lab animals, was not involved in the study but co-authored a published report linking  PCBs with changes related to ADHD.

Boys exposed to the highest levels of PCBs during their mother’s pregnancy failed to press a button for the on-screen cat 12 percent more often than children exposed to the lowest levels, according to the study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. Those same boys also scored slightly lower in the other test.

The same link was not found in girls. Animal data suggest that hormone-disrupting chemicals including PCBs affect each gender differently, but the connection in humans remains unclear.

“It’s possible that these compounds can impact brain development by altering the hormonal balance of a developing fetus,” said Joe Braun, an epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health who did not participate in the research. “Boys and girls have different hormonal patterns,” he said.

Boys are two to three times as likely as girls to develop ADHD, the most common learning disorder reported in children worldwide. In 2007, U.S. parents reported that nearly 10 percent of children between the ages of 4 and 17 had been diagnosed with ADHD, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The researchers in their report called the effect of PCBs on attention skills “modest.” But they noted that the links were strongest for the children’s errors of omission and variability in reaction times, which they called “indicators of inattention.”

In their findings, the scientists took into account other factors that may contribute to ADHD-related behaviors, such as whether the mother smoked during pregnancy. However, they cannot rule out that chance – or some other factor – did not contribute to the results.

In the study, 31 percent of the children were non-white, 24 percent of the fathers did not finish high school and 20 percent had an annual household income of less than $20,000 per year.

The authors reported that PCB levels in the New Bedford area infants “were low relative to other population-based studies, given maternal residence adjacent to the PCB-contaminated New Bedford harbor.”



From Toronto Star:

A new study has found early exposure to a chemical commonly used in dry-cleaning can increase the risk of developing bipolar disorder and post traumatic stress syndrome.

The study, published in the open access journal Environmental Health, examined the impact of the solvent — known as tetrachloroethylene or PCE — which leached into the water supply from vinyl-lined water pipes used in the Cape Cod area.

PCE and vinyl resin were used to attach liners to the water pipes. The pipes were dried for 48 hours before being shipped for use. It was thought that the PCE would evaporate before the pipes were installed. But that didn’t appear to be the case.

Quantities of PCE seem to have stayed on the liner and ended up leaching into the public water supply, said Ann Aschengrau, a professor and epidemiologist at Boston University School of Public Health who conducted the study.

Aschengrau and a team of researchers did a retrospective cohort study on 1,500 subjects, born between 1969 and 1983 in the Cape Cod area. They were traced through their current address and telephone number, credit bureau records, telephone books and the Internet.

Eight hundred and thirty-one of them were identified as being exposed to the solvent through drinking water either prenatally or in early childhood, Aschengrau said in an interview with the Star.

Through data linked to their mothers’ addresses and the water distribution companies’ information on where the pipes were located, the researchers were able to find who had been exposed to the PCE-laden water.

They sent questionnaires to all the participants, asking about a variety of things, including mental illness. They were asked if a doctor or health-care provider ever said they had depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder.

In sifting through the data, the researchers found a high increased risk for bipolar disorder and post traumatic stress disorder.

“There was an 80 per cent increased risk for bipolar disorder in those who were exposed to PCE,” Aschengrau said.

“And there was a further increase risk in those who were highly exposed — a 170 per cent increase for bipolar disorder.”

There was also a 50 per cent increased risk for those who were exposed to the PCE for post traumatic stress disorder and it rose to 70 per cent amongst those who were highly exposed, she said.

The number of cases of schizophrenia was too small to draw reliable conclusions, the study said. Nor was the risk of depression associated with prenatal and childhood PCE exposure.

“Prior studies have found increases in risk of depression and anxiety and mood disorders among people who are occupationally exposed to PCE. I think it’s the first time it has been examined,” said Aschengrau.

More research needs to be done and her study corroborated, she said. The study was funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Superfund Research Program.

In the meantime, she said that people should be wary of PCE, which is considered a serious carcinogen and a “well recognized animal and human neurotoxicant.”


From KSDK:

A St. Louis City jury awarded $38.5 million to 16 people from Herculaneum who grew up near the town’s lead production plant.

The plaintiffs claimed they were exposed to dangerous lead levels from the smelter between 1986 and 1994. That $38.5 million verdict was for compensatory damages only. At 8 a.m. Friday morning, there will be a hearing about what the amount of the punitive damages should be.


Watch the video after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

From Environmental Health News:

PFCs are associated with attention and behavior problems in children, suggest a pair of studies published online in June. These studies are some of the first to explore the relationship between PFC compounds and behavior problems, specifically attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and impulsive behavior.

In one study, preteen children were more impulsive when they had higher blood levels of six PFC compounds. The other reports that children with higher blood levels of one type of PFC – PFHxS – have an increased chance of ADHD.

A variety of products use PFCs during manufacturing, and the compounds are present in just about everyone. Together, the reports suggest further research is needed to discern human health effects of PFC exposure.


From :

Kent Berridge, Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, discusses his lab’s research into fundamental question about the brain and behavior. He discusses how food pleasure is generated in the brain, the neural bases of wanting and liking, and how fear and stress relate to desire.


Many things came out of the recent UN Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants , or POPs Convention (April 25-29, 2011), but the most valuable in many people’s opinion is the addition of Endosulfan to a growing list of highly dangerous chemicals, called by one pundit, “The worst of the worst.”

Endosulfan is a highly toxic, Class I pesticide. Like its closest relative, DDT, which was banned about 40 years ago based on severely detrimental health and environmental effects, endosulfan is an organochlorine, a class of pesticides known for their toxicity at every level in the living world. In fact, in 2010 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said endosulfan’s health risks were actually more far-reaching than previously calculated or suspected.

The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, also known as the “POPs Treaty”, has been trying since 1995 to protect the world’s population from chemicals and pesticides uses in agriculture and industry that are known, even at very low levels, to cause cancer, central nervous system (CNS) disorders even in mature individuals, immune system failures, reproductive disorders, and delay or complete absence of certain infant and child (physical and mental) developmental paradigms. These chemicals are suspected of causing autism, ADHD, Central Auditory Processing Disorder, and Cerebral Palsy, to name a few.

POPs are persistent in the environment, building up in living organisms and demonstrating adverse effects on their health and development. POPs also move, traveling thousands of miles from their point of origin to infest and infect some of the last unspoiled wildernesses on the globe. For example, near the Arctic Circle, the presence of POPs are so prevalent that levels of HCH (Hexachlorocyclohexane), PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate) and endosulfan actually exceed those further south, even though the chemicals are not used in the Arctic.


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