Toxins and Autism
Autism describes a range of developmental disorders that are collectively referred to as the autism spectrum disorder (ASD). On this spectrum are a range of impairment levels, with mild cases to severe. Autism appears in early childhood and affects communication, mental processes and social skills.
Of the 4 million children in the United States, approximately 400,000 to 600,000 have been diagnosed with autism and similar behavioral disorders. This translates to 1 in 88 children, making autism and other similar conditions the fastest growing developmental disabilities in the country.
With 1 in 88 children in the United States diagnosed with autism, researchers confirm that it is evenly spread over racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups. More boys than girls develop autism, with the most recent studies revealing that 1 in every 54 boys are affected.
Causes of Autism
While several decades of research has brought scientists more information than ever about autism, the exact causes of this developmental disorder are unknown. Studies show that genetics, as well as environment both, play a part, with genetics making up around 30 to 40% and environmental factors making up around 60 to 70% of total autism cases.
Vulnerable Groups and Ages
Pregnant women, infants, and young children have a unique window of vulnerability on being exposed to these environmental factors. Studies show that certain toxins found in the 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 through some of the teenage years.’
It’s all too easy for pregnant women, infants, and children to absorb chemical toxins through the skin and the lungs. Studies show that chemical toxins are often present in the fatty tissues of pregnant women, in breast milk, in babies who die from SIDS and in children with a range of illnesses including cancer, ADD/ADHD, and autism. It’s clear that when these high-risk groups are exposed to environmental toxins, their bodies absorb and retain harmful chemicals and heavy metals. Scientists are only now beginning to understand the connection between environmental toxins and health.
Since the middle of the 20th century, more than 80,000 new chemicals have found their way into modern life, appearing in consumer products from shampoo and paint to plastics and pesticides. 3,000 of these chemicals have been classified as ‘High Production Volume’, are known to be toxic at certain exposure levels, and are found in millions of consumer products in varying amounts. These are chemicals that have been proven to be harmful if exposed to in certain amounts, yet only 20% of them have been screened for potential toxicity during early development.
Here are 10 such High Production Volume toxins that have been found in common products and consumables:
- Lead (found in water and paint)
- Organophosphate pesticides (fruit)
- Automotive exhaust (cars)
- Organochlorine pesticides (pesticides)
- Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (cigarettes)
- Methylmercury (fish and shellfish)
- Polychlorinated biphenyls (coolant fluids)
- Perfluorinated compounds (plastic food containers)
- Brominated flame retardants (mattresses)
All of these chemicals give off noxious fumes, known commonly as off-gassing, and these chemicals can be found in mother’s breast milk and even within an infant’s blood stream.
What is not commonly known, is that the synthetic foams and fire retardant chemicals used in most retail mattress manufactured for sale in the US uses materials that off-gas known toxic materials linked to the disease states. So while environmental toxicity is an issue, the fact that the modern mattress is made with materials laced with toxic materials is overlooked. This is especially problematic for at risk members of our population who need extra sleep, like pregnant women, growing children and the sick or elderly.
Because infants and children require more sleep than adults, this increases potential exposure to toxins in their mattresses. Many of the materials in mattresses, from the synthetic foam to the flame retardant chemicals, are known to produce such toxins.