Thursday, May 17, 2012

Researchers blame autism rise on industrial chemicals

The rise in autism cases has researchers looking for
possible causes, including environmental pollution.
More and more children are being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, and most school districts nowadays have a team dedicated to autistic students to offer the right care and support.

The condition is hard to ignore: One in 88 children may now be diagnosed with autism by the age of 8, a 77 percent increase since 2002.

The numbers are shocking and have researchers, parents and teachers scratching their heads as to why autism has become such a widespread concern.

Of course, more awareness and better spotting methods could also contribute to the higher numbers, and other factors may be obesity and age of parents, but the scientific community is most divided over the question of genetics vs. environment.

Environmental factors have been disregarded for a long time, but new research from San Antonio and elsewhere are increasingly putting the blame on chemicals in the environment.

Ambient mercury emissions (close to coal burning power plants, for example) as well as poorly regulated common chemicals in households and workplaces have been pointed out specifically, although it is difficult to pinpoint exactly which chemicals may be to blame because of a lack of information.

More research is needed, but the shortlist of possible chemicals to blame includes
  • Lead
  • Methylmercury
  • Organophosphate insecticides
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls
  • Arsenic
  • Manganese
  • Ethyl alcohol
Researchers warn that is it likely just the tip of the iceberg, as children can be exposed to 3,000 synthetic chemicals produced in quantities of more than 1 million pounds per year.

Even before children are born, they are exposed to hundreds of chemicals from cosmetics, building materials, polluted air, food and drinking water. Many of these chemicals are neurotoxic to adult brains and they have only come onto the market in the past few decades.

Avoiding chemicals as much as possible, especially during pregnancy and early childhood may be one of the best ways to reduce risks at this point in time, researchers say.

Source: The Current

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