In the 1980s, about one in 2,000 American kids was diagnosed with autism. Today the number is around one in 68, according to estimates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network.
A 2014 study by researchers at the Harvard School of Public
Health found a strong link between autism and in utero exposure to air
pollution: The risk of autism was doubled among children of women
exposed to high levels of particulate air pollution during pregnancy.
Another 2014 study out of the University of California, Davis,
determined that pregnant women living near fields and farms where
chemical pesticides are applied experience a 66 percent increased risk
of having a child with autism or a developmental delay.
The advocacy group Autism Speaks, which contributed to the funding of
the Harvard study, believes that despite all the emerging data linking
toxic exposures to autism, no environmental influence appears to cause
or prevent autism by itself — rather, they appear to influence risk in
those genetically predisposed to the disorder.
“It’s important to remember that not all mothers exposed to air
pollution during pregnancy will have a child with autism, and not all
children with autism were necessarily exposed to air pollution in
utero,” said epidemiologist Michael Rosanoff, associate director for
public health at Autism Speaks. “We know autism is a complex disorder,
and underlying genetic and biological factors interact to influence
susceptibility. The next step is to identify the biological mechanisms
that connect air pollution to autism and identify ways to treat if not
prevent the harm to brain development.”
While many studies linking environmental toxins and autism have
been inconclusive, one developing research approach appears to hold
great promise. Remarkably, fallen baby teeth can be used to track a
child’s prenatal and infant exposure to chemicals — thus allowing
scientists to determine what environmental causes may have contributed
to the disorder’s development.
“As a result, we can use teeth like an archaeological record,”
says Dr. Raymond Palmer of the University of Texas Health Science
Center. “The enamel of different types of teeth begins to form at
different points during prenatal development. In infancy, the enamel
continues to absorb chemicals circulating through the baby’s body.”
Dr. Palmer says the greatest insights from dental analysis may
come from looking at chemical exposures along with gene abnormalities,
which may affect one’s vulnerability to potentially toxic chemicals.
Read the whole story at citizensvoice.com