Are toxic chemicals fueling mental health issues in children?

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toxic-chemicals-fuel-mental-health-issues(NaturalHealth365)  In recent decades, mental health has rightfully taken center stage as a crucial aspect of overall well-being, especially for children.  Recognizing its significance, society now widely acknowledges that mental health greatly influences individuals’ success and quality of life.  It’s important to understand that mental health is shaped by a myriad of factors, including genetics, environment, and one’s self-perception.  While experiences like neglect, abuse, or poor diet can directly impact children’s mental health, there’s growing interest in exploring how environmental exposures might also play a role.

To delve deeper into this intersection, a team of researchers conducted a systematic review, examining studies on heavy metal exposure, endocrine disruptors, and pesticides to assess their collective impact on children’s mental health.  The findings, though not entirely surprising, shed light on the complex relationship between environmental factors and mental health disorders in children.  While the results may be alarming, they also prompt us to consider potential solutions to address this pressing issue.

Exposure to toxic chemicals may be worse than you think

It’s common knowledge that we aim to avoid toxins like lead, arsenic, glyphosate, and others.  No responsible parent would allow their child to play in a bucket of gasoline or douse their yard with Roundup.

The challenge lies in the fact that we’re increasingly exposed to subtle yet harmful levels of toxic chemicals, such as heavy metals, endocrine-disrupting chemicals, and pesticides, in our daily lives.  The industrial food system practically ensures that we ingest herbicides and pesticides through our everyday meals.  Moreover, the soil used to cultivate crops – many of which end up in the United States – is often contaminated with manganese, cobalt, and other heavy metals, which then make their way into our bodies via the plants.

While numerous studies link exposure to these chemicals with serious health conditions like heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and cancer, research on their impact on mental health disorders is lacking.

Study reveals impact of chemical exposure on childhood mental health

While medical science has made significant strides over centuries, mental health science has only relatively recently gained traction.  Despite progress, there remain critical gaps in understanding and addressing mental health challenges.

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In classrooms, disruptive behavior is often attributed to home life issues or underlying conditions like autism or learning disorders.  However, a lesser-known possibility is covert exposure to toxic chemicals.  Recognizing this concern, a group of scientists embarked on a study to investigate the potential link between chemical exposure and childhood mental health issues, particularly in areas with histories of lead contamination or pesticide exposure.

Their approach involved scouring Google Scholar for articles published within the last six years, focusing on children, mental health, heavy metals, glyphosate, other pesticides, and endocrine-disrupting chemicals.  From the identified studies, a staggering 70% revealed a significant correlation between exposure to these chemicals and moderate to severe mental health problems in childhood, highlighting a pressing need for further research and awareness in this critical area.

How heavy metals, endocrine disruptors, and pesticides may be to blame for childhood mental health troubles

The scientists separated the 29 studies into three groups depending on the subject matter: heavy metals, endocrine disruptors, and pesticides.

The primary heavy metals that were a part of the research were manganese, copper, lead, and mercury.  Mercury and lead are toxic on their own and at small concentrations.  Still, manganese and copper are toxic primarily at higher concentrations, and exposure to all four can be relatively easily traced back to paint, soil, plumbing, and various other sources.

Learning disabilities are most common with heavy metal disruption, as are mood and emotional regulation problems.

The endocrine disruptors looked at were phthalates, bisphenols, and polybrominated diphenyl ethers.  These toxic chemicals affect anything from testosterone, progesterone, estrogen and a variety of other hormones.  They are often implicated in a broad spectrum of mental health disorders, particularly depression, anxiety, and mood disorders.

As for pesticides, glyphosate was the most commonly used and had the highest exposure rate.  Glyphosate is also an endocrine disruptor but causes a host of problems up to and including cancer on its own.

The research looked at children with autism, anxiety, learning disabilities, depression, emotional regulation problems, ADHD, oppositional defiant disorder, and other behavior regulation problems and their exposure to one of the contaminants listed.  Again, the findings were significant, pointing strongly to a positive correlation between exposure to one of these contaminants and mental health problems.

Simple ways to reduce your exposure to harmful chemicals in your environment

If you live in a house built before 1975, there is an almost certain chance of lead somewhere in your home’s paint.  If your home’s exterior was painted with lead, then it is 100% in your soil as well.  Additionally, if your home is over 100 years old, you likely have a lead inflow pipe, and when you drink water, you are probably ingesting some lead.

Heavy metals exist primarily in soil and are usually a byproduct of industrial work and production.  If you live in a major inner city, chances are good that the apartment that you live in was converted from an old factory.  This increases your risk of exposure to lead or any other heavy metal dramatically.

You can get tests for your water, soil, and painted surfaces to determine if lead is present.  From there, many state governments and municipalities have lead abatement programs that you or your landlord can get involved with to begin the process of getting rid of the metal.

Endocrine disruptors are commonly found in low-quality plastic.  So if you have water bottles or plastic cups that you use regularly that do not explicitly say they are phthalate-free, get rid of them.  Opt for wooden or stone plates and cups.  Use natural shampoos, soaps, and other hygiene and beauty products whenever possible.

As far as pesticides go, try to buy organic produce whenever possible.  If you have a farmer’s market or consumer supported agriculture (CSA) sharing program, get involved because most small farms and community gardens do not use pesticides.  Never grow a food garden or maintain your landscape with Roundup; if your landlord does, please request that they do not.

Navigating the multitude of toxic chemicals surrounding us daily can be challenging, especially when convenience often trumps health considerations.  However, just because others may not seem bothered or aware of these environmental toxins doesn’t mean you should be complacent.

Stay mindful of your surroundings, the places you frequent, the environment at home, and the food choices for yourself and your children.  By doing so, you could potentially spare them from a lifetime of mental health issues stemming from pervasive exposure to these harmful chemicals.

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