Chemicals in everyday products are putting children's brains at risk of not developing properly, leading scientists have warned.

Dozens of American scientists, health practitioners and children's health advocates have signed a statement warning of the "unacceptably high" risk.

Exposure to certain chemicals can cause problems such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and hormonal conditions linked to infertility.

The scientists' report raised concerns about organophosphates, used as pesticides; flame retardants known as PBDEs, found in soft furnishings and electronics; and phthalates, which are found in everything from shower curtains to car dashboards.


In the US, although not in Britain, phthalates are used in cosmetics and toiletries.

The scientists also warned of a danger from PCBs, industrial chemicals linked to liver cancer and male infertility.

They are banned in the UK and US but take so long to break down that they continue to contaminate soil years after their use. University of Illinois comparative biosciences professor Susan Schantz said: 'These chemicals are pervasive, not only in air and water, but in everyday consumer products that we use on our bodies and in our homes.

"Reducing exposures to toxic chemicals can be done, and is urgently needed to protect today's and tomorrow's children."

The report, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, said that many of the chemicals disrupted thyroid hormone function which is needed for proper brain development.

The document criticised the fact that many industrial chemicals were allowed to become widespread with little testing for their potential health effects.

Professor Schantz added: "For most chemicals, we have no idea what they're doing to children's neurodevelopment." She said if a product appeared to be a risk, governments should limit its use immediately rather than wait for proof that it is dangerous.

The chemicals featured in the report are used more widely in the US than in Britain.