Is Environmental Pollution Causing Us to “Lose Our Minds”?
Losing Our Minds: How Environmental Pollution Impairs Human Intelligence and Mental Health by Barbara Demeneix examines the impact of chemical pollutants on thyroid hormone production, or thyroid hormone action, with negative effects on cognitive functioning and mental well-being. Demeneix suggests that the negative impacts include falling IQ and a rising incidence of autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). As discussed by reviewer Stuart Derbyshire, IQ is normative and has been rising for several decades, and while autism prevalence has indeed increased over the past 30 years, reasons for this trend could include actual changes in prevalence of autism or broadened diagnostic boundaries with an increased tendency to recognize autism. Nonetheless, Derbyshire concludes that there is a theoretical possibility that an environmental pollutant could be causing low-level cognitive impairment that may be related to reductions in IQ and increased autism and ADHD prevalence.
What do you think about possible links between environmental pollution, thyroid hormone production, and negative effects on mental well-being? Is there enough evidence to warrant concern?
Are psychologists taking the role of pollutants on cognitive functioning and mental health seriously enough?
By Stuart Derbyshire
PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(18)