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Neurodevelopmental disorders in a hyper-tech world

Ernesto Burgio

In November 2006, an article published in The Lancet – the world’s leading independent general medical journal – strongly posed the problem of a silent pandemic of neurodevelopmental disorders that was spreading throughout the North of the planet. The main cause of this dramatic increase would be the persistent maternal-fetal exposure to thousands of potentially neurotoxic molecules such as pesticides, endocrine disruptors and other xenobiotics (including drugs) present in placenta, cord blood, breast milk. In 2014 the same authors published in The Lancet Neurology a rich and documented review, strongly highlighting the role of the diffusion in the environment of neurotoxic agents: in particular of heavy metals in the air of our cities and pesticides in food chains. In the following years, epidemiological and toxicological data were able to confirm not only the neurodevelopmental disorders’ pandemic (a recent study in Pediatrics – the official peer-reviewed journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)- reported that roughly 1:40 U.S. children has been diagnosed with autism, compared to 1:68 in 2014, 1: 166 in 2010, 1: 1500 in the 80s), but also the continuous increase of neuropsychiatric disorders (first of all: Major depressive disorder) and neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer’s disease). It is increasingly evident that this and the other “epidemics” of chronic diseases in the world (obesity, juvenile diabetes 2, childhood cancers, allergies, autoimmune diseases) are the consequence of an epigenetic mismatch in the early stages of life: probably the main and so far enormously underestimated consequence of an ipertech world on human health.