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Genetics + Environmental Chemical Soup = Autism?

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In the not-too-distant past, the rate of autism in the US was listed as 1 in 10,000 children. It is now acknowledged to be 1 in 150 children and as high as 1 in 93 children in New Jersey. While there are those who point to better diagnosis as the reason for the increase, little consensus exists for the reasons why as many as 1 in 6 American children are labeled as learning and/or behaviorally disabled.

Vaccines? Children get more and more shots at an earlier and earlier age. Mercury is still in the flu shot and other preservatives are toxic as well. Genetic predisposition? Exposure to video games? Heavy metals? Chemicals in the environment? Every child has a unique set of genes and a unique environment, and they must be taken into account. Books like Healing the New Childhood Epidemics: Autism, ADHD, Asthma, and Allergies by Dr. Ken Bock detail the medical sleuthing necessary to determine what combination of factors caused a child normal at birth to develop a learning and/or behavior disorder.

Three studies now say there is a link between children’s exposure to pesticides and autism. Recently published research found that children who live in homes with vinyl floors, which can emit phthalate chemicals, are more likely to have autism. Children whose mothers smoked were also twice as likely to have autism.

Research now acknowledges that environmental contaminants such as PCBs, PBDEs, and mercury can alter brain neuron functioning even before a child is born. These changes to the brain can be long-lasting. Stain-resistant chemicals, found in up to 98% of Americans sampled in the late 1990s, are found in clothing, carpeting, upholstery, and even the lining of food containers. Fetuses exposed to the chemicals PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate) and PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) experience changes in proteins important to both growth of brain neurons and the production of brain proteins necessary to carry messages between nerve cells. These changes in brain proteins may account for behavior changes including hyperactivity, as is the case in lab animals that are exposed to stain-resistant chemicals.

AAHF has information on issues you might be interested in—one on childhood vaccines, and another on the increased use of prescription drugs by children.

We also offer consumers a database to find physicians who focus on environmental medicine—how the environment influences genetic expression.

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