Neurotoxic compounds released into the natural environment during industrial activities linked to transport, agriculture and other areas represent a growing health risk for humans, according to University of Namur Professor Frédéric Silvestre. These compounds may have an adverse effect on the nervous system – memory, behaviour, locomotion, personality traits, etc. Silvestre, a member of the University’s Research Unit on Environmental and Evolutionary Biology, notes in a study co-signed with other researchers and published recently in the prestigious Environmental Sciences Europe magazine. Yet human activity continues to develop, carrying with it an increasing number of neurotoxic substances, they say.
The early stages of life are potentially very sensitive and exposure during development can have direct effects on the nervous system as well as deferred effects on adults’ mental health that may appear years later, the researchers note.
Similarly, the risk that neurotoxic pollutants represent for wild species and natural ecosystems is an increasingly greater cause for concern. However, the assessment of this risk is made difficult by a lack of reliable scientific data.
The risk is even greater when one realises that about one-third of commercially used chemical compounds may have neurotoxic potential, according to the researchers. This represents about 30,000 chemical compounds.
The team thus recommends that alternative methods of animal testing be used, and that the battery of tests should be extended to a greater variety of species. The effects should be assessed on the entire ecosystem, it stresses.