NADD Bulletin Volume XII Number 6 Article 2

Complete listing

From the NADD Environmental Health Project

Neurotoxic Chemicals in the Body: The LDDI/Coming Clean Biomonitoring Project

Edward Seliger, MA, NADD Environmental Health Project Coordinator


In recent years, evidence that we all carry some burden of toxic chemicals within our bodies has been growing.  Over 80,000 synthetic chemicals are registered for use in the United States today, yet less than 10 percent of these chemicals have been tested for their effects on human health.  During the past year NADD has joined with other members of the Learning and Developmental Disabilities Initiative (LDDI) in collaboration with Coming Clean in a project to investigate the presence of neurotoxic chemicals in the bodies of people in the learning and developmental disabilities (LDD) community.  While biomonitoring is an established scientific tool which has been used for many years in many countries around the world for public health surveillance and disease control, this is the first biomonitoring project that looks at people with health effects such as learning and developmental disabilities. Eleven members of the LDD community (including leaders and health affected individuals) volunteered for this project.  During the summer, blood and urine samples were collected and sent to labs to be tested for the presence of a number of neurotoxic chemicals.  A report on the findings, "Brain Burden: What's the Link Between Toxic Chemicals and Developmental Disabilities," is scheduled to will be released the second week of February 2010.


The report may include presentation and analysis of scientific studies that indicate effects of low-level exposures  to neurotoxic chemicals as well as the mechanisms of harm, that indicate ubiquitous and continuing exposures to US populations, and that identify vulnerable populations and special circumstances that may create vulnerabilities.  The report may also include information about government laws and corporate policies that demonstrate a paucity of adequate regulations governing the use of neurotoxic chemicals and a lack of adequate protocols for the testing of environmental chemicals for neurotoxic properties.


"All people have the right to live, study, work and play in safe and healthy environments," says Laura Abulafia, LDDI National Coordinator. "This includes people with various vulnerabilities and limitations, such as learning, developmental and intellectual disabilities, as well as those with mental health needs.  The information gained from this study will help put our community at the forefront of the policy work currently underway on chemical policies, and will also raise awareness of the Learning and Developmental Disabilities community as an important population."


The NADD Connection


Dr. Robert Fletcher, CEO and Founder of NADD, one of the twelve volunteer subjects of this project, notes, "The process of collecting the samples was laborious and time consuming, but the end result in terms of the science and public policy applications will be worth the effort.  Comprehensive reform of chemical policy is necessary if we are to reduce exposures that are associated with learning and developmental disabilities and prevent further harm to our most vulnerable populations.  The LDDI biomonitoring project will help raise awareness about the need to protect people from chemicals in the environment." 


NADD is involved in planning for the production and distribution of the report.   Look for "Brain Burden: What's the Link Between Toxic Chemicals and Developmental Disabilities" in February.


For further information, contact Edward Seliger at 


The NADD Environmental Health Project, funded by the John Merck Fund, provides professionals, families, and the general public with relevant information concerning toxic agents and their affects on neuro-development.  For further information visit and click on "Environmental Health Project," or contact Ed Seliger, Project Coordinator, at