C. 1997. Terminus Brain: The environmental threats
to human intelligence. Cassell, London and Herndon VA. ISBN 0-304-33857-5.
presents a wide-ranging overview of the vulnerability of human intelligence
and behavior to events that interfere with normal brain development.
His basic thesis is that three factors--pollution, the absence of
key micronutrients, and a degraded psycho-social environment-- have
had devastating impacts on human functionality, undermining not
only the capacity of individuals to fulfill their potential and
cope in a society that is increasingly information-dependent, but
also eroding society's capacity to develop economically.
Williams points out that any of of these factors by themselves can
have devastating impacts, but that they often co-occur. Micronutrients
are more likely to be lacking from the diets of people who also
are living in heavily contaminated areas (both conditions of which
are inadvertent legacies of the green revolution). These are often
poor communities struggling to provide a nurturing, supportive environment
for young children. The co-occurrences compound the effects of the
factors because they interact. For example, iron, vitamin D and
calcium deficiencies increase lead uptake. Williams suggests that
a new research field be established, "toxico-dietetics,"
specifically to look at these interactions.
synergism becomes more significant when viewed in the social context
of poorer countries. The absence of necessary environmental
agents (micronutrients) is usually seen as a rural problem; the
presence of environmental toxins, urban. But in the ever-growing
informal settlements--the 'shanty towns'--around the cities of the
poorer countries both problems come together. ... Many dirty industries
which require a small labour force, such as nuclear power stations,
are deliberately sited in rural areas within poorer countries. Local
people, who probably already suffer from (rural) nutritional deficiences,
are exposed to high levels of industrial (urban) pollutants, such
as lead from shielding and protective clothing discarded around
the nuclear power stations."
argues--correctly, we believe--that "education ministries
should now be in the front line of environmental activism"
(p33). This is more than a theoretical concern, as illustrated in
debates unfolding in the 2000 US presidential election. Both candidates
are pushing for holding schools financially accountable for poor
performance. Their platforms ignore the certainty that some schools'
performance is below average because of neurological impairment
of the students caused by lead and other neurotoxicants: withdrawing
funds from these schools will punish children for the failures of
government to prevent contamination, not for the failure of the
school to do its best.
also presents a devastating critique of the inadequacy of risk assessment
as practiced by the US EPA and other countries' regulatory agencies
to protect against the neurotoxicological impacts of contaminants.