Top Ten Autism Suspects Identified By Brain Experts

BY ON April 26, 2012

Autism incidence statistics button

We know that autism is on the rise, and as parents, we are frustrated. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of every 88 children in the US has been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. This is an increase of 78% since 2002.

What is driving this? Genes evolve far too slowly to account for the drastic rise in this disorder. A prime suspect: ENVIRONMENTAL EXPOSURES.

Yesterday, environmental health experts Philip Landrigan and Luca Lambertini, both of Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, published a list of ten widely distributed chemicals already suspected of causing neurodevelopmental disorders, or brain problems, in children.

These are the TOP SUSPECTS, according to the experts:

Lead. This used to be added to paint and gasoline, and still can be found in soil, water, old paint, toys, and other consumer products.

Methylmercury. Mercury comes out of the smokestacks of coal-fired power plants under lax regulation. This mercury precipitates out over oceans and lakes, and is transformed into methylmercury as it gets into the food web. We are exposed to toxic methylmercury primarily from eating fish.

Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs). A family of chemicals used widely in electrical equipment until their ban in 1979, PCBs persist in the environment and can contaminate fish and other food. They accumulate in animal fats, so are prevalent in farmed salmon (which is fattier than wild salmon), beef, eggs, chicken, cheese, and butter.

Organophosphate pesticides. These include such common insecticides as malathion, parathion, diazinon, and chlorpyrifos.

Organochlorine pesticides. These include lindane, a common lice treatment, and endosulfan. DDT (now banned) is an organochlorine pesticide that Rachel Carson made infamous as a bird-killer.

Endocrine disruptors. Chemicals that interfere with the endocrine system come in a variety of forms. Some, such as dioxin and PCBs, have been linked to definitive health problems. Others, such as the plasticizer BPA, are suspected of having health effects at low exposure levels.

Automotive exhaust. Well, most of us are turning the key each and every day. Can we find ways to drive less? Even better, can we find ways to use something to fuel our cars that does NOT produce such exhaust? The U.S. is, after all,  the land of innovation.

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). A byproduct of incomplete combustion, exposure to PAH has been linked to a range of health problems, including anxiety and behavioral issues in children.

Brominated flame retardants. These chemicals are purported to protect consumers from fire dangers. (The effectiveness of that protection is controversial.) They are found in a wide range of consumer products, such as children’s pajamas, mattresses, couches, car seats, strollers, and nursing pillows. Some have been proven harmful and phased out; others are still in use.

Perfluorinated compounds. These are stain and stick resistant chemicals. Think Teflon, Gore-Tex, upholstery treatments, and dental floss. Yup, dental floss. It’s embedded in the fibers of some brands to make it slide more easily through the teeth.

These substances are coming into our bodies from the air we breathe, yes, but also from the products we buy, the food we eat, our grooming products, our electricity supply.

These substances were created in many cases by scientists, chemists, and engineers across the land; and their use lines the pockets of corporate America. (Or did line those pockets, until the substances were banned, and the waste left to circulate through the environment, including our bodies.)

These substances have enough evidence of health harm lined up against them to inspire the head of a national agency to write that they are suspects in causing brain problems in our children.

These substances are ubiquitous. It is almost impossible to avoid exposure. It is good to try to avoid these chemicals–but as you can see, it is difficult. DENTAL FLOSS? Who knew.

These substances are polluting us, and our children, with potentially severe consequences. Should we wait to find out for sure if these substances cause harm? Not when it’s my kids you’re talking about. No thank you. Instead, we should incentivize some nice scientific ingenuity on their behalf.

We must have a public health approach to these toxic suspects – which means a regime of prevention. Why should moms–and their children–be the human guinea pigs for the chemical industry?

Please JOIN MOMS CLEAN AIR FORCE to insist on a world where our children are not thrown under the bus of our increasingly industrialized, chemical-infused society. Our children’s brains–and hearts, and lives–and our future, depend on it.


TOPICS: Autism, Food, Mercury Poisoning, Pollution, Pregnancy, Science

  • bevis longstreth

    Powerful, frightening article. Leads me to think MCAF should develop or get someone reliable to develop a list of easy to follow, every day avoidance strategies for each of these harmful chemicals. Without that, aren’t you scaring moms and offering just prayer as a coping mechanism? Bevis

  • Utterly, horrendous! Why is it that now that we know better in terms of science catching up, that we can’t do better by each other! Seriously, I am so disheartened by big corporations, and there downsizing of faulty goods and higher pricing. Only to find out in the end, that what I consumed was hazardous to my health!

  • Doesn’t anybody know a really intelligent and brave lawyer/lawyers who could represent MCAF and moms with children everywhere, who could go after serious repeat offender corporations for what Joel Bakan in the book theCorporation calls pathological behavior? Although Bakan makes clear the fine qualities and intentions of the original formation of corporations, he also explains their now evolved intrinsic mission: to make profit (that’s their “job” at, often enough, whatever cost to the ignorant). Since corporations have been granted “personhood” let them be responsible to their fellow persons for the harm they cause.

  • Bleu

    Like she said, it’s nearly impossible to get away from these poisons. The best we can do for now is reduce exposure as much as possible. We can boycott products in favor of natural alternatives. Health food stores and the organic section of mainstream grocers offer a fairly good variety of hygiene items. I’m quite fond of certain Burt’s Bees products and Dr. Bronner’s castille soaps. You can also search for soapers who specialize in natural soaps and peddle them online, or you can learn to make your own if you have space and resources. Natural, non-flouridated dental products are also available, or you can opt for plain baking soda. There are also non-toxic hair dyes which are blends of henna and indigo. Read and study up on medicinal herbs and nutritional healing. You would be surprised how many conventional medicines are unnecessary. Otherwise, read read read ingredients on everything you eat, drink or put on your body, go natural/organic, and try to reduce fuel use and time spent in traffic as much as possible.

  • Bill

    Having a grandson with Asperger syndrome has given me a greater sensitivity to those who are affected with autism. I believe there is a lot of illnesses, syndromes, and other conditions in both children and adults that can be linked to the “a better world through chemistry.” I am trying to help people get rid of the dangerous chemicals used every day in our homes. Learn more at:

  • triggaman187

    a i got this nd ppl making sound bad as hell it the way u look at it im walking in the crowed like every one else nd nobody knows that i have it and that cause i never told anybody and they was treating me as every one else ppl treat autism like they dumb we are not dumb we are same like yah if we bleed u see red if yah bleed u see red so tell me wat diffrent. and i know ppl that treating us like regular ppl and if u reading this thank you

  • We are working through government to assess production. What are we doing personally to limit exposure? David Davis, Fresh Air Manufacturing Company