The Science of Harmful Chemicals

Damage caused by harmful chemicals that are common in our homes and environment can have lifelong consequences.

Many of these harmful chemicals are present in the bodies of all pregnant women. Scientists have tested blood, breast milk and urine from hundreds of young women, and umbilical cord blood from many newborns. Results point to the unsettling truth that drives HBBF’s work: toxic chemicals circulate in the body of every woman tested, pollute every baby before birth, and cause lasting harm.

A collaboration of leading scientists, health professionals and children’s and environmental advocates, called Project TENDR, has issued a national call to action, inspired by the substantial scientific evidence linking toxic chemicals to neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder, attention deficits, hyperactivity, intellectual disability and learning disorders. 

“People’s exposures to these chemicals are widespread and begin in utero. Infants and young children are especially at risk of harm because their bodies and brains are still developing, and chemicals can interfere with sensitive biological processes during critical developmental periods... [Solutions] are urgently needed if we are to protect healthy brain development so that current and future generations can reach their fullest potential.”

-Project TENDR

baby sitting in car seat

Types of Harmful Chemicals

Contaminates food, water, and backyards from its long-time use as a pesticide and its release from mines and industrial sites. Linked to IQ loss. Actions that help: test your well water and choose oatmeal baby cereal over rice.

Added to furniture, electronics, carpet and more. Widely contaminate house dust, food and the human body. Concerns include IQ loss and ADHD. To cut exposures, clean often with a microfiber dust cloth and vacuum equipped with HEPA filter.

Decades of use in gasoline and house paint left a legacy of polluted soil, contaminated homes and toxic house dust. Lead damages the developing brain. Keep lead paint in older homes (pre-1978) in good repair and test your tap water for lead.

A global pollutant from coal-fired power plants, mines and other sources that builds up in seafood. Eating low-mercury fish can reduce exposures. 

Used to kill bugs on produce, lawns and homes. Eating plenty of low-pesticide and organic fruits and vegetables helps reduce exposures.

Oily pollutants in charred meat, cigarette smoke, vehicle exhaust and wood stoves, as well as emissions from coal- and oil-fired power plants. Food and air are widely contaminated. Linked to IQ loss and ADHD. Using your range hood fan while cooking and avoiding charred meat helps cut exposures. 

Industrial chemicals widely used for 50 years, banned in 1976. PCBs persist in the environment accumulate in fatty foods and contaminate people worldwide. Eat low-fat meat and dairy to reduce your PCB intake.

A rocket-fuel component and fertilizer contaminant that pollutes drinking water and many types of food. It disrupts thyroid functions critical to brain development. Cook and season with iodized salt to reduce its impacts to the body (iodine helps block perchlorate damage).

Common plastic softeners and fragrance ingredients linked to IQ loss and ADHD for children exposed in utero. Many types are banned in children’s toys. Cut exposures by avoiding plastic food packaging and buying fragrance-free personal care products.