New evidence on harm from chemical mixtures

Many of us remember what seemed at the time to be an isolated case of an autism epidemic in the early 1990’s in Brick Township, New Jersey. At first, contaminated drinking water was the Number One suspect because chemical wastes dumped in the town’s landfill over a period of years had contaminated the city’s drinking water with the chemicals bromoform, chloroform, and tetrachloroethylene.

However, a detailed analysis conducted by scientists from the U.S. Government concluded that the level of these chemicals in water was simply not sufficient to have damaged the nervous systems of developing infants of even fetuses.

When the Brick Township autism epidemic merged into a national epidemic many of us forgot about it or concluded that maybe it wasn’t really any different from what was going on nationwide.

However, new research is sparking a renewed interest in the Brick Township story. As it turns out, in reaching their conclusions the government scientists only analyzed the effects of each chemical on its own whereas, quite obviously, exposure was to all three of them at the same time.

Carol Reinisch, an expert in chemical-induced neurotoxocity, wondered if looking at these chemicals together might tell a different story. Her lab started to research this combination using surf clam embryos as models. The reason why research done on embryonic development of clams is considered valid for humans is that the most basic early nervous system development is the same across all species.

Her findings are truly disturbing. When tested individually or in pairs, these chemicals produce no damage, even at much higher concentrations than those found in the water at Brick Township. However, when all three are present at the same time they alter nervous system development. To read about this research go to

To more conclusively establish whether these chemicals actually caused the autism epidemic, the study should be repeated using some type of mammal.

This type of study does make me wonder what exactly is going on throughout our country and the world. A brand new study that analyzed ten samples of umbilical cord blood in the U.S. found 287 chemicals, including 209 never before detected in cord blood. These chemicals included mercury, fire retardants, pesticides, and Teflon. Find a detailed report about this study at

Knowledge is often the first step towards recovery and the new website offers some interesting data. You can go there and find the environmental contaminants that are most prevalent in your area, as well as how your county stacks up against the rest of the country. Predictably, Harris County doesn’t look too good.

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