AND MORE AT KRISTOF'S BLOG:
Do Toxins Cause Autism?
Autism was first identified in 1943 in an obscure medical journal. Since then it has become a frighteningly common affliction, with the Centers for Disease Control reporting recently that autism disorders now affect almost 1 percent of children.
... Yet they constitute a huge national health burden, and suspicions are growing that one culprit may be chemicals in the environment. An article in a forthcoming issue of a peer-reviewed medical journal, Current Opinion in Pediatrics, just posted online, makes this explicit.
The article cites “historically important, proof-of-concept studies that specifically link autism to environmental exposures experienced prenatally.” It adds that the “likelihood is high” that many chemicals “have potential to cause injury to the developing brain and to produce neurodevelopmental disorders.”
The author is not a granola-munching crank but Dr. Philip J. Landrigan, professor of pediatrics at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York and chairman of the school’s department of preventive medicine. While his article is full of cautionary language, Dr. Landrigan told me that he is increasingly confident that autism and other ailments are, in part, the result of the impact of environmental chemicals on the brain as it is being formed.
“The crux of this is brain development,” he said. “If babies are exposed in the womb or shortly after birth to chemicals that interfere with brain development, the consequences last a lifetime.”
Concern about toxins in the environment used to be a fringe view. But alarm has moved into the medical mainstream. Toxicologists, endocrinologists and oncologists seem to be the most concerned.
One uncertainty is to what extent the reported increases in autism simply reflect a more common diagnosis of what might previously have been called mental retardation. There are genetic components to autism (identical twins are more likely to share autism than fraternal twins), but genetics explains only about one-quarter of autism cases.
Suspicions of toxins arise partly because studies have found that disproportionate shares of children develop autism after they are exposed in the womb to medications such as thalidomide (a sedative), misoprostol (ulcer medicine) and valproic acid (anticonvulsant). Of children born to women who took valproic acid early in pregnancy, 11 percent were autistic. In each case, fetuses seem most vulnerable to these drugs in the first trimester of pregnancy, sometimes just a few weeks after conception.So as we try to improve our health care, it’s also prudent to curb the risks from the chemicals that envelop us. Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey is drafting much-needed legislation that would strengthen the Toxic Substances Control Act
A Bit More on Autism
By NICHOLAS KRISTOF
My Thursday column argues that as long as we’re looking at reforming the clinical health system, we should also examine public health interventions — including greater scrutiny of chemicals that may be having harmful effects on us. In particular, I look at autism (for more information about autism, check out the site of the Autism Society of America).
I chose autism as my focus because of a new, peer-reviewed article in a pediatric journal that examines environmental causes. The article is still forthcoming in print but is on line (behind a pay wall) here. And it’s only the latest in a torrent of research findings suggesting harmful effects of various chemicals that are routinely detected in human blood, urine and breast milk. There is no escaping the chemicals of modern life.Dr. Philip Landrigan uses the article to argue for a much more rigorous examination of chemicals to determine which ones do indeed cause damage to the developing brain.
This environmental toxin theory doesn't pass the smell test.
We're supposed to believe that toxins so common we're all exposed to them effect and harm only1% of the fetuses!?
This is barely a notch above the MMR theory.
Do you really want to protect fetuses?
Then stop worrying about toxins and stop abortions.
FROM A COMMENTER AT KRISTOF'S BLOG:
PaulCambridge, Mass.February 25th, 201012:31 pmI'm a big fan of Nicholas, and I believe that environmental toxins may well contribute to causing autism. But am compelled to clarify 2 of Nicholas' statements.
First, the pediatric journal article that he mentions is not "the latest in a torrent of research findings." The article is an opinion piece; it contains no new research findings of any sort.
Second, Nicholas asserts that "genetics explains only about one-quarter of autism cases." This assertion is, at best, an inappropriately certain misinterpretation of existing data. It would be more accurate to say that "some believe that genetics explain about one-quarter of autism cases." We just don't know yet.
THEY WILL EVEN COMMIT GENOCIDE - AND HAVE DONE SO REPEATEDLY.
KRISTOF IS NO EXCEPTION.
HE'D RATHER THE STATE CLAMPED DOWN ON THE USE AND MANUFACTURE OF BENEFICIAL CHEMICALS - (AS HE WOULD HAVE THE STATE DO ON CO2!) - THAN SAVE REAL LIVES BY FINDING MORE WAYS TO DECREASE ABORTIONS.
THIS WOULD ACHIEVE THE GREATEST GOOD FOR THE GREATEST NUMBER OF PEOPLE: MORE HUMANS ARE ABORTED THAN GET AUTISM.