This blog is a way of sharing the information and resources that have helped me to recover my son Roo from an Autism Spectrum Disorder. What I have learned is to view our symptoms as the results of underlying biological cause, which can be identified and healed. I say "our symptoms" because I also have a neuro-immune disorder called Myalgic Encephalomyelitis.

And, of course, I am not a doctor (although I have been known to impersonate one while doing imaginative play with my son)- this is just our story and information that has been helpful or interesting to us. I hope it is helpful and interesting to you!


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Environmental Toxicity

This is a huge topic and will be the focus of a number of posts, but for now I want to get some of these resources up for people who are asking for them.  So often people allude to "environmental toxicity" as a cause or contributor to disease, but what do they mean by that?  What exactly are these toxins, where are they, what do we know about them?  People sometimes question whether there is science behind these fears, while others become frustrated with how pervasive the problem is and throw up their hands in defeat, saying that there is simply too much for us to avoid so why even try.  For those of us who know we have been harmed by some of these toxins it can be painful to find out just how much was known, how early, and yet we were still allowed to be harmed.  Yes, there has been some "better living through chemistry" (which comes from a marketing slogan from DuPont when it was trying to save it's destroyed public image back in the 1930s), but this progress has been reckless and has ended and destroyed many, many lives, and those lives matter too.

The cost of a polluted environment: 1.7 million child deaths a year, says WHO.

For my post about environmental sources of metals, go here.  This post focuses on other toxins mostly.

GENERAL SOURCES:

TOXNET is part of the NIH National Library of Medicine and is an incredible resource.  It contains links to many databases with various toxicology information, such as the Hazardous Substances Data Bank, which has peer-reviewed toxicology info for over 5,000 toxic chemicals, another one with over 4 million literature references regarding the toxicity and effects of drugs and toxic chemicals, another with interactive maps health data and EPA data such as superfund sites, even databases of info about the effects of drugs on lactating and pregnant women and on reproduction.

HealthyStuff this site provides information about toxic chemicals that can be found in everyday items such as toys, children's car seats, jewelry, and building materials.  It has a searchable database and reports on specific types of products.

Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families this is a consumer watchdog and advocacy group working to reduce exposure to toxic chemicals in the US.  The site contains information and news releases about toxic chemicals.

The Collaborative on Health and the Environment has a database that allows you to select a disease and see which toxic chemicals are associated with it, ranked by how strong the evidence is to support the link.

This page from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences discusses chemicals that are endocrine disrupters, including what they are and how they work.  Chemicals with endocrine disrupting abilities include BPA, some flame retardants, dioxins, many pesticides, PCBs, and many more.

This page from TACA (Talk About Curing Autism) has information about some specific toxins found in our food supply and environment.

This post from The Autism File called Green Home…Healthy Kids gives more information on a wide variety of hazardous chemicals found in and around our homes, such as personal care products, cleaning products, and electronics.

It turns out that many of these harmful chemicals are ending up in human breastmilk and being passed along to babies at a susceptible age.

PERSONAL CARE PRODUCTS:

The Environmental Working Group's (EWG's) Skin Deep database has information about toxic chemicals in personal care products such as cosmetics, shampoo, and sunscreen.

This page from EWG has specific and updated information about safety testing sunscreens.

The Cost of Inaction: A Socioeconomic analysis of costs linked to effects of endocrine disrupting substances on male reproductive health

HOUSEHOLD PRODUCTS:

The US Department of Health and Human Services Household Products Database has health and safety information for many types of household products such as cleaning chemicals, fertilizers, auto products, and arts and crafts materials.  The entries have information from the product labels and MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) put out by the manufacturer, as well as contact info for the manufacturer.

Environmental Working Group's Guide to Healthy Cleaning is a database with health and safety information for more than 2500 cleaning products.

Low levels of common flame-retardant chemical damages brain cells
"The study showed that even tiny amounts of the compound damage neural mitochondria, the energy plants that power our cells. The chemical, quite literally, reduces brain power. In addition, the researchers found that the loss of PTEN protein, a condition associated with autism-like behavior in mice, combined with BDE-49 exposure, makes neurons even more susceptible to mitochondrial damage. These findings bolster the argument that genetics and environment can combine to increase the risk of autism and other neurological disorders."


The use of household cleaning products during pregnancy and lower respiratory tract infections and wheezing during early life.
Int J Public Health. 2013 Oct;58(5):757-64.
"The period prevalence of LRTI was higher when sprays (combined odds ratio (OR) = 1.29; 95 % confidence interval (CI) 1.04-1.59) or air fresheners (OR = 1.29; CI 1.03-1.63) were used during pregnancy. The odds of wheezing increased with spray (OR = 1.37; CI 1.10-1.69) and solvent (OR = 1.30; CI 1.03-1.62) use. The associations between spray and air freshener use during pregnancy and both outcomes remained apparent when these products were not used after pregnancy. Nevertheless, the estimates were higher when post-natal exposure was included.  The use of cleaning sprays, air fresheners and solvents during pregnancy may increase the risk of wheezing and infections in the offspring."

AIR AND WATER:

The EPA has a website called AirNow that gives you information about the air quality in your specific area.

Environmental Working Group's National Drinking Water Database allows you to search by zip code to find out what is in local drinking water. 


INDOOR AIR QUALITY: Scented Products Emit a Bouquet of VOCs

This Newsweek article about spraying pesticides to control West Nile Virus provides a lot of information about how spraying for pests in urban areas is done, the ways in which it is evaluated for safety, and some of the ill effects on humans.

Neurotoxicity of traffic-related air pollution
"The central nervous system is emerging as an important target for adverse health effects of air pollution, where it may contribute to neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders. Air pollution comprises several components, including particulate matter (PM) and ultrafine particulate matter (UFPM), gases, organic compounds, and metals. An important source of ambient PM and UFPM is represented by traffic-related air pollution, primarily diesel exhaust (DE). Human epidemiological studies and controlled animal studies have shown that exposure to air pollution, and to traffic-related air pollution or DE in particular, may lead to neurotoxicity. In particular, air pollution is emerging as a possible etiological factor in neurodevelopmental (e.g. autism spectrum disorders) and neurodegenerative (e.g. Alzheimer's disease) disorders. The most prominent effects caused by air pollution in both humans and animals are oxidative stress and neuro-inflammation. Studies in mice acutely exposed to DE (250–300 μg/m3 for 6 h) have shown microglia activation, increased lipid peroxidation, and neuro-inflammation in various brain regions, particularly the hippocampus and the olfactory bulb. An impairment of adult neurogenesis was also found. In most cases, the effects of DE were more pronounced in male mice, possibly because of lower antioxidant abilities due to lower expression of paraoxonase 2."

OTHER SOURCES:

Toxins found in school supplies, especially PVC and vinyl

How Safe is the Artificial Turf Your Child Plays On?
After it was discovered that what seemed like a relatively high percent of soccer goalies are developing blood cancers, especially lymphoma, questions are being raised about how safe artificial turf actually is. Specifically, the questions are around these tiny pieces of rubber, made from old car tires, that are spread on the field to make it softer. While many athletes have contact with the rubber pellets (called "crumb rubber"), goalies seem to have a much higher exposure because they dive for the field so much. They end up ingesting it and having it get caught in scrapes and cuts. Used tires are known to be toxic- "according to the EPA, mercury, lead, benzene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and arsenic, among several other chemicals, heavy metals, and carcinogens, have been found in tires." Crumb rubber is also used on many playgrounds.
Babies may receive excessive radiation from x-rays.