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GUARDING AGAINST
How Environmental Toxins May Contribute
to Autism Spectrum Disorder
by Brita Belli
W
hen the results of an autism study were published
dren with autism were found to contain twice the mercury as
in the journal Pediatrics in October 2009, the
those of typical children.
figures were shocking—one in every 91 U.S. chil-
Adams’ findings have also uncovered one common
dren was reported to have autism. That was up from one in
thread in the medical history of children with autism: heavy
500 a decade ago, with boys four times as likely to acquire
use of oral antibiotics in infancy. He explains that antibiot-
the disorder.
ics disrupt the gut’s good flora, further diminishing the child’s
Behaviors of autism include: failure to respond to stimuli
ability to excrete toxins. Such treatments are primarily used for
or make eye contact; speech delays; compulsive behavior
recurring ear infections, but as Dr. Jerry Kartzinel reports in his
like head-shaking; stacking objects or intense repetition of
book, Healing and Preventing Autism (co-written with celebri-
daily activities; and extreme noise sensitivity.
ty autism treatment advocate Jenny McCarthy), those frequent
For years, research into the causes of autism has re-
ear infections are, “the most common marker for immune
volved around genetics. Even as the rate of autism among
system dysfunction... in babies and very young children.”
the nation’s children continues to rise at an astonishing 10 to
17 percent a year, research has been slow to shift its focus to
A New Approach
other factors—namely, environmental toxins.
A growing number of doctors like
Kartzinel and researchers like
The Chemical Connection
Adams are subscribing to the
New autism research is making the case that environmen-
protocols set out by Defeat
tal toxins such as mercury, lead, polychlorinated biphenyls
Autism Now! (DAN), a
(PCBs), flame retardants and pharmaceutical drugs—includ-
project of the nonprofit
ing antidepressants in utero or antibiotics in infancy—may be
Autism Research Insti-
aggravating a pre-existing genetic condition.
tute, which supports a
Yet James Adams, head of the Autism/Asperger’s Re-
biomedical basis for
search Program at Arizona State University, remarks that,
autism and its treat-
“There is still extremely little money out there for looking
ment. DAN practitio-
into environmental issues.”
ners, according to the
Adams’ own research has discovered a correlation
group’s description,
between heavy metal exposure and autism severity. In one
“do not regard psycho-
study, Dimercaptosuccinic acid (DMSA), a medication used
tropic drugs as the best
to treat lead poisoning, was administered to children with
or only means of treating
autism. The researchers found that children with autism
autistic patients.” Instead,
“dumped three times as much mercury as typical children,”
they look for triggers that
reports Adams, suggesting that their bodies could not proper-
may aggravate a pre-existing genetic
ly excrete the toxin. In another study, the baby teeth of chil-
30 Oakland, Macomb, Livingston & St. Clair, MI
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