Chemical Brain Drain: A Conversation with Philippe Grandjean

December 3, 2013
11:00 am US Eastern Time

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CHE and the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) were pleased to host this conversation with Dr. Philippe Grandjean, author of Only One Chance: How Environmental Pollution Impairs Brain Development—and How to Protect the Brains of the Next Generation. In his book, Dr. Grandjean explains what he calls “chemical brain drain”—a deficit in brain function related to exposures to environmental chemicals—in particular, mercury, industrial chemicals and pesticides—particularly during early stages of development. On his website, Chemical Brain Drain, Dr. Grandjean provides a forum for further discussion on chemicals impacting our brains’ health and implications for society. During his conversation with Dr. Michael Lerner, vice-chair and co-founder of CHE, Dr. Grandjean explored chemical exposures and the impact on the brain, preventive measures which can be taken to address “chemical brain drain”, and larger issues related to the complex issues of environmental health both nationally and internationally. Dr. Grandjean is professor and chair of environmental medicine at the University of Southern Denmark and adjunct professor of environmental health in the Department of Environmental Health at Harvard School of Public Health.

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Philippe Grandjean, MD, was born in Denmark in 1950 and graduated as an MD from the University of Copenhagen at age 23, and 6 years later defended his doctoral thesis: ‘Widening perspectives of lead toxicity.’ He became professor of environmental medicine at the University of Southern Denmark in 1982. A Fulbright Senior Scholarship brought him to Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York, and he later served as adjunct professor of neurology and environmental health at Boston University. In 2003, he became adjunct professor of environmental health at Harvard University. In 2004, he received an unusual recognition—the Mercury Madness Award for excellence in science in the public interest, from eight US environmental organizations. In 2012, he received the science communication award from the University of Southern Denmark. He lives in Copenhagen, Denmark, and in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and travels widely to study environmental problems and to examine children whose lives have been affected by pollution. His research has been supported by the US National Institutes of Health, the European Commission and the Danish research councils. Dr. Grandjean is the toxicology adviser to the Danish National Board of Health and has served in this function for over 25 years.

The call was moderated by Michael Lerner, president of Commonweal. Lisette van Vliet, senior policy advisor on Chemicals and Chronic Disease Prevention at the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) in Brussels provided remarks following the conversation between Michael and Dr. Grandjean.