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March 21, 2015
by Lee Kehoe, MS, LMHC, NCC

Tylenol maker, McNeil Consumer Healthcare pleads guilty- Threat to Children’s Development Exposed

March 21, 2015 05:55 by Lee Kehoe, MS, LMHC, NCC

Expecting parents have growing concerns over Tylenol’s recent connection to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), with numerous findings reporting pregnant women’s use of Tylenol may be linked to the onset of ADHD in their school aged children. Now even children’s Tylenol presents a risk to children’s cognitive development and behaviors. With so much untapped neuronal connectivity, the child’s brain is susceptible to environmental conditions that could drastically alter and impact the child’s development and health well into adulthood. A child’s engagement with the environment is both vital to his or her development, but also presents risks to harmful substances that may delay such development. This susceptibility offers both opportunity for proud milestone moments, as well as detrimental misconnections in the brain. With so many developmental possibilities, parents often become preoccupied with the impact such environmental influences may have on their childrens’ health and well being. So when kids’ Tylenol maker, McNeil Consumer Healthcare plead guilty to manufacturing and selling children’s Tylenol that contained metal particles, many parents may wonder what such metals could do to their childrens’ health and development. Furthermore, findings like the McNeil Tylenol case can have an indirect effect of on the way parents attempt to navigate the uncontrollable environment and deal with the anxiety of raising children in the 21st century. 

Toxic Metals Impact on Cognitive Development

With food products or medicine manufactured in large companies with heavy machinery, the ingestion of metal particles in food and medications has become a realm of concern for parents of the 21st century. The ingestion of such metal particles over time can have lasting effects on a child’s cognitive development and future behaviors. The interactions of such metal particles in the physiology of the child’s changing brain can create secondary effects by inhibiting or over promoting the release of important nutrients and neurotransmitters. A change in the child’s brain chemistry can manifest itself in numerous ways as the child develops language, motor, and interpersonal skills. 

Such metal particles can delay the development of language and motor acquisition, which can hinder the child’s ability to engage with his or her environment through communication and play. Any barriers to the child’s engagement with his or her environment can have severe implications to their further cognitive development. The child can grow to have poor interpersonal skills and emotional understanding, which can result in an increase in maladaptive behaviors as the child attempts to find any form of communicating his or her needs. 

The lasting effects of the ingestion of metal particles through food products or medications can impede a child’s success in school and at home. The child may exhibit mood swings or anger due to the onset of learning disabilities. Alternatively, the delay in cognitive development can manifest as both attention and memory deficits in later childhood. Such delays have continued implications from a life course framework, as the child is unable to succeed in school due to such behaviors they grow to have difficulty in adulthood with employment and interpersonal relationships.

Parents’ Growing Anxieties and the Impact on Family Life

As the Western world becomes increasingly fast paced, with both parents in a household working and higher demands of education on children; family life has developed into a complex system of uncertainty. In addition to the increase in technology and access to information at any moment, parents are bombarded with information that span the spectrum of promoting claims, as well as falsifying such claims. In an effort to keep up with the environment, parents can experience a lack of control over their family’s environment and well being. Additionally, feeling a loss of control can lead to increased symptoms of anxiety that becomes a self perpetuating cycle of stress from the environment, concern over the environmental impact on one’s child, and further sense of uncertainty. The impact of such increased anxiety on family life include increased irritability in parents, interpersonal conflict between family members, expressions of mood swings, and increased catastrophizing thoughts. In contributing to the perpetuating cycle, these symptoms of anxiety can have secondary effects on the children in the home. Some children express possible increases in rebellious behavior, while other children react to such family anxiety with depressed mood, withdrawal, and self isolation. 

Another possible psychological implication to parents’ increased anxiety over the environmental impact on children involves a preoccupation with gathering as much information as possible. As previously stated, the increase in access to instant information can reinforce a parents preoccupation with such environmental information. However, the wealth of information presents as an additional reinforcer to the parent’s anxiety and sense of uncertainty. 

The implications of cases such as the McNeil guilty plea to metal particles in children’s Tylenol act as a psychological reinforcer to parents persistent anxieties surrounding the effects of the environment on their children’s development and well being. In addition to the acute effects such metal particles can have on a child’s cognitive development and behavioral manifestations, the numerous secondary effects can intensify the child’s delay and perpetuate life long challenges. With common medicine’s such as Tylenol presenting such environmental hazards to both in utero and as a result of the McNeil metal particle findings, children and parents of the 21st century have numerous stressors to contend with in creating a healthy environment for children to grow.  

Liew, Z., Ritz, B., Rebordosa, C., Lee, P. C., & Olsen, J. (2014). Acetaminophen use during pregnancy, behavioral problems, and hyperkinetic disorders. JAMA pediatrics, 168(4), 313-320.

About the Author

Lee Kehoe Lee Kehoe, MS, LMHC, NCC

I have had the opportunity to train and work with an agency that works within a diverse range of facilities in the Rochester area, engaging with clients from all walks of life. My experiences have provided me a solid foundation for Counseling.

Lee Kehoe can be found at
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