Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Autism and the Environment

The Wall Street Journal is finally reporting in its front section:

“Autism Linked To Environmental Factors: New Studies of Air Pollution, Pesticides, and Iron Bolster Evidence Typing Developmental Disorder to Influences in the Womb.” (S.S. Wang, May 4-5 2013, A3).
Majia here: This is not news.

What is news is that the mainstream media are finally reporting on the growing linkages being made scientifically between human engineered environmental insults and neurological diseases, ranging from Parkinsons to autism.

Links between autistic behaviors and prenatal chemical chemical exposures have been found for organophosphate insecticide chlorpyrifos (Eskenazi et al. 2007) and phthalates (Miodovnik et al. 2011). IQ deficits , dyslexia, and ADHD have been linked also to organophosphate pesticides(London et al. 2012), lead (Jusko et al. 2008), methylmercury (Oken et al. 2008), polychlorinated biphenyls (Winneke 2011), arsenic (Wasserman et al. 2007), manganese (Khan et al. 2011), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (Perera et al. 2009), bisphenol A (Braun et al. 2011), brominated flame retardants (Herbstman et al. 2010), and perfluorinated compounds (Stein and Savitz 2011. See Landrigan 2012 for complete details HERE

Most recently autism has been linked to glyphosate (Samsel and Seneff, 2013).

However, investigation of environmental causes and mediations tends to be funded less than investigation of susceptibility genes. Press accounts of genetics and disease typically emphasize inherited diseases. Environment tends to get reduced to lifestyle variables such as smoking and diet. Scientific findings in environmental toxicology, genomics, epigenetics, and proteomics have no way of impacting government exposure standards.  

I believe there two important reasons why environmental causes are marginalized in comparison to those that search for autism genotypes and neuralytpes. First, as I’ve argued elsewhere, I believe that many researchers pursue susceptibility genes over environmental contributions because genes are biocapital while the focus on environmental contributions may actually pose liabilities in attracting funding. Second, changing the environment presents formidable challenges to extant power structures and ways of life.

However, it may be that a failure to make an environmental change will result in increasing rates of neurological and other diseases in our world. Rising rates of autism and many other disorders, such as diabetes, may compromise our future. Who knows when reproductive success will fail with the accumulation of de novo mutations across generations as each group acquires their own after inheriting their parents’ germ-line cell damage?

Philip J. Landrigan, Luca Lambertini, Linda S. Birnbaum A Research Strategy to Discover the Environmental Causes of Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disabilities Environ Health Perspect 120:a258-a260 (2012). http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1104285 [online 25 April 2012] http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/1104285/

Samsel, A., & Seneff, s. (2013) Glyphosate's Suppression of Cytochrome P450 Enzymes and Amino Acid Biosynthesis by the Gut Microbiome: Pathways to Modern Disease. Entropy, 15, 1416-1463.






  1. But there is a genetic component of autism... people think that genetics is just a fluke of nature that you are born with.

    But baby gets autism not only through vaccinations and other toxic exposures, but because mom and dad were vaccinated, grandma and grandpa were vaccinated, great-grandma and great-grandpa were vaccinated. The genetic damage builds up in every generation. That is why autism rates are exponentially increasing.

  2. Agreed Bobby!

    The flaw was thinking that the genetic component has nothing to do with the environment!