The term autism describes a range of developmental disorders that are collectively referred to as autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This spectrum represents a range of impairment levels, from mild to severe. Autism affects communication, mental processes, and social skills. It appears in early childhood, more commonly in boys than girls, however, the disorder is evenly spread over racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups.
AUTISM IS ON THE RISE.
According to recent numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 68 children in the United States have ASD. Prevalence of ASD increased by six to fifteen percent each year between 2002 to 2010, making it the fastest-growing developmental disability in the country.
CAUSES OF AUTISM ARE PREDOMINANTLY ENVIRONMENTAL.
While several decades of research have produced more information than ever about ASD, the exact causes are still unknown. Studies indicate that; genetics are responsible for 30 to 40 percent of cases, while 60 to 70 percent of ASD incidence point to environmental causes.
Scientists have found that certain toxins in our environment, like heavy metals and carcinogens, have the potential to disrupt neurodevelopmental pathways during fetal and early childhood brain development, from as early as two weeks after conception into the teen years.
WOMEN AND CHILDREN ARE PARTICULARLY VULNERABLE.
Scientists are only now beginning to understand the connection between environmental toxins and health. But it seems the highest-risk groups are pregnant women, infants, and young children. Their bodies are uniquely vulnerable to the absorption and retention of harmful chemicals and heavy metals. Studies show that chemical toxins are often present in the fatty tissues of pregnant women and in children with a range of illnesses including cancer, ADD/ADHD, and autism.
UNFORTUNATELY, TOXIC CHEMICALS ARE NOW PART OF EVERYDAY LIFE.
Since the middle of the twentieth century, more than 80,000 new chemicals have found their way into modern life and now appear in millions of consumer products, from paint to plastics to shampoo. 3,000 of these substances are now classified as high production volume (HPV) chemicals, meaning those that are produced or imported to the United States in quantities of one million pounds or more per year. While HPV chemicals are proven harmful at varying levels of exposure, only about 20 percent of them have been screened for potentially hazardous effects during early human development.
Examples of HPV chemicals found in items we interact with every day include:
• Organophosphate pesticides (fruit)
• Perfluorinated compounds (plastic food containers)
• Lead (paint and drinking water)
• Methylmercury (fish and shellfish)
• Brominated flame retardants (mattresses)
These chemicals can persist long after serving their original purpose, eventually finding their way into mothers’ breast milk and infants’ blood stream.
SURPRISINGLY, MOST MATTRESSES CONTAIN SEVERAL KNOWN TOXIC CHEMICALS.
The synthetic foams and fire retardants used in most mattresses today (even those that are manufactured in the US) off-gas toxins that are linked to disease states. This is especially problematic for at-risk groups that need extra sleep, like pregnant women, growing children and the sick or elderly. More sleep results in increased exposure to mattress toxins, some of which include:
Off-gassing of these chemicals from conventional crib mattresses can cause headaches, allergic reactions, and nausea. More disturbing though is that some evidence links chemical off-gassing to autism and abnormal development, as well as to ADD/ADHD and other serious diseases.