Autism and Environmental Chemicals

Share This Post

CHEJ has been talking about the dangers of PCB’s in school lighting fixtures and how the chemical can affect children’s health. Last month, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported that autism spectrum disorder now affects 1 of every 88 American children — a 23% increase from 2006 and a 78% increase from 2002. CDC also reported that ADHD now affects 14% of American children.

As these disorders continue to affect more children across the U.S., researchers are asking what is causing these dramatic increases. Some of the explanation is greater awareness and more accurate diagnosis. But clearly, there is more to the story than simply genetics, as the increases are far too rapid to be of purely genetic origin.

The National Academy of Sciences reports that 3% of all neurobehavioral disorders in children are caused by toxic exposures in the environment and that another 25% are caused by interactions between environmental factors and genetics. But the precise environmental causes are not yet known.

To guide a research strategy to discover potentially preventable environmental causes, a list of ten chemicals found in consumer products that are suspected to contribute to autism and learning disabilities.

This list was published today in Environmental Health Perspectives in an editorial written by Dr. Philip J. Landrigan, director of the CEHC, Dr. Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), and Dr. Luca Lambertini, also of the CEHC.

The top ten chemicals are:
1. Lead
2. Methylmercury
3. PCBs
4. Organophosphate pesticides
5. Organochlorine pesticides
6. Endocrine disruptors
7. Automotive exhaust
8. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
9. Brominated flame retardants
10. Perfluorinated compounds

The editorial was published alongside four other papers — each suggesting a link between toxic chemicals and autism.

There are things we can do as parents as concerned taxpayer and citizens. First, is to remove chemicals in areas that children frequent. As you may know CHEJ’s Children Environmental Health Program has been working on identifying and the removal PCBs in school lighting fixtures as well as removing other environmental chemicals from children environment such as emissions near schools.

As a humane society we cannot allow this devastating neurological problem to continue to rise in our children. It is time to speak up and out about environmental chemicals and children’s health. It is time to ask our health authorities to explore where children may be being exposed and eliminate that source of exposure. This is especially true in the case of PCBs and school lighting(schools built before 1980 and had no retrofitting) since this is a win win situation. The school district can remove exposure and save money on the energy efficiency of new lighting fixture.

Our children are our future. Let’s protect them . . . our future depends on their leadership.

More To Explore

The Urban Heat Island Effect

By Leanna Theam. I grew up in the suburbs of sunny Southern California then moved to the opposite end of California to a small college