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Researchers Accidentally Discover Link between Vinyl Flooring and Autism

Thursday, April 23, 2009 by: Louis Lazaris
Tags: vinyl flooring, health news, Natural News

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(NewsTarget) In a study published on March 30, Swedish, Danish and U.S. scientists have discovered a link between vinyl flooring and autism in children. The purpose of the study -- which involved nearly 5,000 children -- was to investigate the connection between indoor air pollutants and allergies, however, the autism connection was accidentally found instead.

The findings, published in the journal Neurotoxicity, surprised even the scientists involved in the study, and are the first to find a connection between an environmental chemical and autism. Although their purpose was not to study autism, they recommend that the results be taken seriously and that further studies be conducted on a larger group to confirm the link.

The study followed the children from infancy up to at least 6 years of age and was conducted by having Swedish family members fill out surveys asking various questions related to their indoor environments. Of the study's 4,779 children aged 6-8 years, 72 had autism and 60 of those were boys.

Four factors were connected to the children's autism: family economic issues, poor ventilation, the mother's smoking, and vinyl flooring. Children under 3 years of age who slept in bedrooms with vinyl, or polyvinyl chloride (PVC), flooring, or whose mothers smoked, were twice as likely to develop autism. The children with autism were also more likely to have asthma.

"A greater proportion of children with autism spectrum disorder were reported to have PVC as flooring material in the child's and the parent's bedroom in 2000 compared to children without autism spectrum disorder," reported the researchers. "Furthermore, children with autism spectrum disorder were reported to live in homes with more condensation on the inside of the windows, which... may be seen as an indicator for deficient ventilation."

Scientists not involved in the study have been cautious about making any definitive statements about the results, citing the study's limitations. Those leading the research made similar statements in their report. "The data are far from conclusive. They are puzzling, even baffling, and not readily explicable at this time," they wrote. "However, because they are among the few clues that have emerged about possible environmental contributions to autistic disorders, we believe that they should be weighed carefully and warrant further study."

As a possible explanation for the link, the researchers -- from Karlstad University in Sweden, the universities of Rochester and Texas in the U.S., and the Technical University of Denmark -- suggest that the children breathed in dust full of phthalates produced by vinyl flooring. If this is the cause, they believe that children are most vulnerable in the womb when their brains are still developing.

Past studies have shown household dust to be contaminated with phthalates as well as with other hazardous substances such as pesticides and alkylphenols. Phthalates are used to soften plastics in vinyl flooring and other household products.

In 2008, the U.S. banned the production and sale of toys and childcare products containing certain phthalates. The same ban has been put in place in Europe, Argentina, Japan, Israel, and Mexico.

It is estimated that 1 in 150 children in the U.S. suffers from autism.



About the author

Louis Lazaris is a website designer and the owner of Natural-Life.ca, a directory that provides free business listings for natural health practitioners, organic food stores, organic farms, and organic & vegetarian restaurants in major North American cities like Toronto and New York City.

Louis also maintains a web design blog where he regularly posts articles and tutorials on web development.

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