Environmental toxicants and developmental disabilities: a challenge for psychologists.

Developmental, learning, and behavioral disabilities are a significant public health problem. Environmental chemicals can interfere with brain development during critical periods, thereby impacting sensory, motor, and cognitive function. Because regulation in the United States is based on limited testing protocols and essentially requires proof of harm rather than proof of lack of harm, some undefined fraction of these disabilities may reflect adverse impacts of this “vast toxicological experiment” (H. L. Needleman, as quoted in B. Weiss & P. J. Landrigan, 2000, p. 373). Yet the hazards of environmental pollutants are inherently preventable. Psychologists can help prevent developmental disabilities by mobilizing and affecting public policy, educating and informing consumers, contributing to interdisciplinary research efforts, and taking action within their own homes and communities to reduce the toxic threat to children.