Our work focuses on the first 1000 days of a baby’s development, when exposures to minute amounts of toxic chemicals can cause a “silent epidemic” of lifelong impairment. The vulnerability of this period has no equivalent in adult life.   

Early-life exposures to toxic chemicals can cause an irreversible decline in children’s ability to learn and thrive, contributing to problems of national concern:

1 in 6 children

will be diagnosed with a developmental disability. 

1 in 45 children

will fall somewhere on the autism spectrum. 

More than $130 billion

is needed annually to continue to provide special education for children struggling with intellectual impairment. 

Science into Action tackles this issue head-on. 

Our work targets babies’ most significant exposures, and focuses on the toxic chemicals with the strongest body of evidence supporting their role in developmental harm:

Baby playing with bowl of rice cereal

Arsenic in Infant Rice Cereal

Rice cereal for infants has 6 times more arsenic than other types of infant cereal. It is babies’ top source of arsenic exposure, and is linked to permanent IQ loss. We’re helping parents find the healthiest infant cereals that are lowest in arsenic contamination, and leading a partnership in 14 cities to test cereals and pressure cereal makers and retailers to reduce the arsenic.

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Hand filling up a glass of water

Lead in Drinking Water

HBBF’s tests have found lead in water samples from 80 percent of homes tested in over 300 cities. One in six homes has more lead in water than is safe for bottle-fed infants. This toxic metal causes permanent IQ loss for children, and is found in drinking water from neighborhoods of all types, whether new or old, wealthy or lower-income, rural or urban. Families can order our lead in water kit online, collect and ship samples to our partner lab, and receive results and a custom action plan to reduce lead exposures.

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Father and son walking in front of windmills

Health and Clean Energy

Burning fossil fuels — coal, oil and natural gas for electricity, gasoline for vehicles, and wood for heating or cooking — releases many harmful chemicals into the air we breathe. This pollution is a well-known cause of asthma and other lung and heart problems, affecting many millions of people around the globe.  

Newer science is telling us that air pollution can also damage babies’ brains, causing lifelong harm to a child’s development. These same air pollution chemicals damage older brains as well, raising the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.  

The Health and Clean Energy program builds awareness of the links between air pollution and harm to babies’ brains. In the process, we help clean energy advocates strengthen their case for reducing and ending reliance on fossil fuels. Our children need clean air to protect their brains and ensure they have bright futures. 

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Child peeling paint off window sill

Lead in the Home

Among all brain-harming chemicals, lead ranks as the leading cause of neurodevelopmental damage. It can be found in paint in older houses, in yards and parks, and in many foods and common items in the home. In the U.S., exposure to this toxic metal accounts for an estimated 23 million IQ points lost among children ages 0-6.

HBBF empowers families to test for lead in their homes with the online toolkit called Vida, launching later in 2018. Families get test results and personalized actions on the best ways to get rid of lead sources in the home, before children are exposed.

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Pregnant woman cooking on stove


Tests find toxic phthalate plasticizers in many foods, including dairy-based foods like cheese and infant formula. We’re working in a coalition of non-profit organizations to reduce levels of these contaminants in the foods babies eat.

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View of a child's nursery

Safe Product Guide

Our online, interactive Safe Product Guide gives parents simple steps to reduce children’s exposures to neurotoxins at home, in childcare, and outdoors.

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