Thursday, April 26, 2012

10 Common Chemicals Suspected to Cause Autism

The  Mount Sinai Children's Environmental Health Center (CEHC) just published a list of the top ten toxic chemicals suspected to cause autism and learning disabilities.

This comes after the Center for Disease Control (CDC) published a report last month where it was revealed that Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) now affects one out of ever 88 children.... a 78% increase from 2002 and 14% of American children.

While part of the increase is due to the broader definition of what falls into Autism Spectrum Disorder, researchers and parents are asking what is causing these dramatic increases, since the rapid increase is considered far too fast to be of purely genetic origin or purely due to the broader scope.

According to the National Academy of Science, there are multiple probable causes of all neurobehavioral disorders in children (including autism, ADHD etc).  They estimate:
  • 3% :  caused by toxic exposures in the environment
  • 25% caused by the interactions between environmental factors and genetics

Considering the evidence that exists of the vulnerability of the developing brain to toxic chemicals, especially during “windows of vulnerability” (i.e. fetal life and early childhood), it is most probable that early exposure to toxic chemicals can cause damage in early brain development.

So what ‘environmental’ factors, which of the thousands of chemicals that we are exposed to in daily life, are guilty of causing autism? 

The answer is that no one knows with certainty, but in order to help the scientific community figure this out,  Mount Sinai’s Children’s  Environmental Health Center generated a list of 10 chemicals widely used that are already suspected of causing developmental neurotoxicity, including autism.
  1. Lead: 
Lead-based paint and lead contaminated dust are the main sources of exposure for lead in the U.S.   Although banned in 1978, lead-based paints are still  found in houses built before 1978.   Additionally, though, lead continues to be found in a large array of consumer products, from art supplies and automobile components to specialty paints, some hair dyes, and even candy.

2.  Methylmercury:
Predatory fish and sea mammals have the highest levels of mercury and are the main source of exposure in pregnant women and children.

3. PCBs: 
Widely used as coolants and lubricants, this chemical does not break down in the environment and can have severe health effects on humans.  PCBs in the air eventually returns to our land (crops) and water through snow and rain. In our water, PCBs build up in fish.  The main routes of contamination are through eating contaminated fish

PCBs have recently been found in older schools in NY  in diverse building materials such as caulking, adhesives and sealants used in construction.

4. Organophosphate pesticides:
Used extensively in agriculture.  The main reason to eat organic food.

5.   Organochlorine pesticides:
While some have been banned in the US (like DDT) others are still in use as insecticides... many times in our own backyards and parks where our children play.

 6.  Endocrine disruptor:
Endocrine disruptor interfere with real hormones in one of three ways. They can mimic , block, or triggers the delicate hormone balance our bodies need to function.  There are MANY kinds of endocrine disruptor, some of the most common ones are: PCBs,  Dioxin, BPA and phthalates.

Endocrine disruptors have been shown to cause learning disabilities, severe attention deficit disorder, cognitive and brain development problems, deformations of the body (including limbs); sexual development problems, feminizing of males or masculine effects on females, etc.

 7. Automotive exhaust

 8. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons: 
Most people are exposed to PAHs when they breathe smoke, auto emissions or industrial exhausts. People with the highest exposures are smokers, people who live or work with smokers, roofers, road builders and people who live near major highways or industrial sources.  They are also found at low concentrations in some special-purpose skin creams and anti-dandruff shampoos that contain coal tars.

 9. Brominated flame retardants: 
These flame retardants (PBDEs) are used in televisions and computers, electronics, carpets, lighting, bedding, clothing, car components, foam cushions and other textiles. PBDEs have the potential to disrupt thyroid hormone balance and contribute to a variety of neurological and developmental deficits, including low intelligence and learning disabilities.  Many of the most common PBDE's were banned in the European Union in 2006

 10. Perfluorinated compounds: 
Are chemicals used to make materials stain and stick resistant.  The most common are those found in non stick pans with Teflon and products like Scotchguard,  they can be found in microwave popcorn bags and pizza boxes, all of  DuPont's Teflon non-stick cookware (if Teflon-coated pans are overheated, PFOA is released).  PFCs are also  in cleaning and personal-care products like shampoo, dental floss, and denture cleaners.  They are even found in Gore-Tex clothing.

What can you do to reduce you and our munchkin’s exposure to these chemicals?
Read our blog entry Non-Toxic Munchkins 123’s:  How to Reduce Your Exposure to the

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