Sunday, February 28, 2010

Autism, Schizophrenia and Environmental Toxicity

I’m always interested in articles about autism and schizophrenia; my older sister became schizophrenic when she was 21. In a span of months I lost my sister and my best friend.

A number of autistic and schizophrenic patients have been found to have mutations of neurexin 1a, a protein which helps to form and maintain nerve signals in the brain. Scientists have recently discovered that mice with the same protein mutation display behaviors consistent with schizophrenia and autism.

In a recent Science Daily article, Dr Steve Clapcote from the University of Leeds's states, “these illnesses are complex; they involve not only our genetics, but also environment and experience. It's possible the genetics might create a predisposition, making some people more likely to develop autism or schizophrenia.”

Dr. Clapcote will be experimenting on mice to see how they respond to antipsychotic drugs. Now this sounds all fine and dandy, but our family experience with these drugs is that they have terrible side effects. If we are fairly sure there is an environmental trigger, why aren’t we looking at toxins in our environment?

In a recent article in Pediatrics Dr. Philip J. Landrigan, professor of pediatrics at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine states, “That there is indirect evidence for an environmental contribution to autism that comes from studies demonstrating the sensitivity of the developing brain to external exposures such as lead, ethyl alcohol and methyl mercury. But the most powerful proof-of-concept evidence derives from studies specifically linking autism to exposures in early pregnancy - thalidomide, misoprostol, and valproic acid; maternal rubella infection; and the organophosphate insecticide, chlorpyrifos.”

At the conclusion of the article Dr Landrigan states that fewer than 20% of high-volume chemicals have been tested for neurodevelopmental toxicity.

Incidences of childhood cancer, diabetes, autism and ADD/ADHD continue to rise. Let’s put our children’s interest first and test these chemicals before we expose the public to them.

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