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They Say: Toxins May Cause Autism

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A theory previously painted as extreme is starting to take a foothold within the mainstream medical community–that exposure to toxins in the womb can increase the likelihood of autism.

An upcoming article in a widely respected medical journal, Current Opinion in Pediatrics, argues that fetuses exposed to certain chemicals in the first trimester–even the first few days–of pregnancy can potentially develop neurodevelopmental disorders like autism.

Exactly what kind of toxins are we talking about?  Previous studies have shown that certain medications, such as the sedative thalidomide and misoprostol (an ulcer medicine), increase the instances of autism when taken by women in their first trimester.  (In the case of valproic acid, an anticonvulsant, autism rates rose to a whopping 11%…more than 10% over the national average.)

Other studies cite phthlatates, chemicals found in fragrances, shampoos, nail polish and cosmetics as a culprit.

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, author of the article, spoke to the NY Times’ Nicholas Kristof:

“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.”

Legislators are paying attention to these and other chemical-related health studies and getting into the act.  New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey is championing the strengthening of the Toxic Substances Control Act.

Apparently, of the 80,000 chemicals registered in the U.S., the EPA requires safety testing of only 200.  Excuse me?  Only 200?   Whether or not these autism theories are proven correct, why are only a fraction of the chemicals we expose ourselves and our kids to properly vetted?

Image: scarybulb

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