Autism and the Environment 101: Online Course 14

There is a clear and present need for the government, scientific, medical and autism communities to probe further into all possible environmental causes of ASD in a fair, unbiased and thorough way, particularly because findings may help us approach treatment and prevention more effectively. For example, many studies implicate mercury in autism or in problems that are found in autism. Two studies have shown increased autism with increased airborne mercury (from air pollution). Mercury injures the immune system and causes brain inflammation. Brain development is also affected by mercury. Several studies have shown that children with autism have elevated porphyrins, which are a sign of excessive mercury exposure. But other chemicals can also have some of these effects, so even though mercury is clearly harmful, it may be hard to prove that it is a central cause of autism.

Some have focused on chemicals in childhood vaccines as suspected agents in the onset of autism. Serious investigation needs to be done on the impact of vaccines and the chemicals in them in conjunction with other environmental exposures. The research we need includes, but is not limited to, investigating whether thimerosal containing vaccines (TCV’s), the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) inoculation, and/or a combination of the two, play any causal or contributory relationship to autism or susceptibility to autism in the population at large or in vulnerable subgroups. It is important for studies to look for ways that these or other exposures may cause or aggravate harm in combination with other factors, even if they are not the sole cause. The more we learn about how people can be very different from each other in terms of their vulnerabilities, the more we need to consider how some people can be injured by exposures that might be easily tolerated by others.


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