New study links endocrine-disrupting chemicals to autistic behavior

Friday, March 28, 2014 by: L.J. Devon, Staff Writer
Tags: endocrine-disrupting chemicals, autistic behavior, flame retardants

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(NaturalNews) The modern-day boy and girl are raised in a chemical society, a culture drenched in pesticides, plastics, petroleum derivatives and synthetic food, medicine, and vitamins. Chemical formulas are manufactured into every corner, all the way down to electronic coatings and flame-retardant-infused couches.

Hard to see chemicals taken for granted as they ravage hormones and brain development

Synthetics are routinely swallowed directly as "medicines," consumed daily as pesticides in foods, inhaled unknowingly through dust and absorbed readily through the skin. These synthetics are often taken for granted, since they are nearly impossible to see and detect, but they are pervasive now, their effect -- lasting. Next to heavy metal pollution, many of the chemicals manufactured today are the silent disrupters of life, generating imbalances in the human endocrine system, disrupting hormones, gland functions and, consequently, brain development.

It's easy to consume pesticide-vanquished foods that deliver their hormone-ravaging formula right into the cells. Some of them, once banned, still linger in the ground decades later and continue to show up in blood and urine samples of people today. Phthalate chemicals, used to make plastic bottles more flexible, are purchased in packs of 24, slurped from and discarded carelessly into the environment. Petroleum-based plastic bags tumble through the wind, while couches manufactured with flame retardant chemicals put off dust that is directly linked to cancer and infertility.

Pesticides and flame retardants disrupt brain development of babies in the womb

These chemicals start interacting with young boys and girls long before they turn two years old. Exposure begins in the womb, where chemicals' effects are more drastic to a vulnerable, developing being. As their brain forms, precious life in the womb may be exposed to several hormone-disrupting chemicals that work their way into the mother, traveling through the placenta.

In a new study, some of these chemicals were tied to increased autistic behaviors in children, starting in the womb, and observed later at four years of age. The study, coordinated by scientists from the University of Cincinnati, Harvard School of Public Health, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Simon Fraser University, BC Children's and Women's Hospital, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Brown University and the CDC, used blood and urine samples from 175 pregnant women in the Cincinnati, Ohio, area and followed up with them 4-5 years later.

Hormone-disrupting chemicals contribute to increasing autism spectrum disorders

With autism rates climbing in the United States between 2002 and 2012 by 78 percent, it seems that Americans are oblivious to the effect that these chemicals have on the human body, especially on developing minds. Since boys are four times more likely than girls to develop autistic behaviors, the scientists concurred that several key hormones known to control male brain development are being disrupted by chemicals in the environment.

Of the 175 pregnant women in the study, an average of 44 hormone-disrupting chemicals were isolated. When those children turned four, mothers were given a childhood behavior evaluation. The test rated childhood behaviors on a scale between 30 and 90, accounting for factors like frequency of eye contact during communication and how well the child plays with their peers.

Pesticides, brominated flame retardants drew greatest concerns

After assessing the scores, the scientists found that brominated flame retardants (PBDE-28) increased the incidence of autistic behaviors in children at age four, showing a score 2.5 points higher than those with lower exposure to the chemical. Likewise, higher levels of the pesticide chemical trans-nonachlor correlated with an average score 4.1 points higher on the autism scale.

Another chemical of concern was perfluorooctane, which is an electronic coolant liquid. PCB insecticides, banned in 1979, also showed up in women's urine and blood samples in the study and drew concern. Another banned insecticide, beta-hexachlorocyclohexane from lindane, increased the autism score. One of the chemicals, PBDE-28, had previously been linked to disrupting infants' thyroid hormones, which are important for brain development. Often found in furniture cushions, PBDE-28 serves as a flame retardant for furniture.

1 in 88 and rising

As more of these chemicals hit the ground running, mass applied in agriculture, drawn up from the soil in crops, they continue to invade young minds, affecting development. Worked into furniture and used as cooling liquids in electronics, these toxins can be readily absorbed and breathed in without one ever knowing. Now it seems that they are behind the growing autism spectrum disorder influx in America, affecting an estimated 1 in 88 children in the US today, according to the CDC.

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