What Does The Environment Have To Do With Autism? By Liza Gross

If you look just at the numbers, you might think autism rates are spiraling out of control. The rates seemed high enough at 1 in 150 in 2000, when public health officials started tracking a steady rise in the syndrome in the United States. And by the time estimates finally flatlined in 2012 at 1 in 68, many parents had embraced unfounded theories blaming vaccines for an autism “epidemic,” helping to fuel outbreaks of measles and other once rare diseases. Experts, however, attribute most of the upsurge to increased awareness, better access to services, and expanded criteria to diagnose the neurodevelopmental syndrome, which is characterized by restricted interests or behaviors and problems with communication and social interactions. Autism is remarkably diverse, encompassing a wide spectrum of disabilities and gifts. “If you’ve met one child with autism,” parents and clinicians like to say, “you’ve met one child with autism.” That heterogeneity, which also includes a range of physical ailments, has made the search for autism’s causes a daunting task. Continue reading the full article at Ensia

Assessment of Breast Milk for Chemicals Found in Personal Care Products

Article by Shivani Kamal 2015 pilot award recipient, Dr. Candace Bever conducted a study examining the presence of chemicals in human breast milk. The chemicals she selected for the project are some found in personal-care products such as toothpaste and liquid hand soap. One particular chemical used in these products is triclosan, an antibacterial agent. Triclosan ends up in a person’s body, including breast milk, through the use of products that contain the chemical. One goal of the study was to understand how the patterns of personal care product use relates to the concentrations measured in the breast milk of nursing women.  Although this study involved a small group of women, Dr. Bever and her colleagues are developing an antibody-based chemical detection tool that can be used for much larger population-based studies. By improving chemical detection technology, scientists and public health officials can obtain the information they need to evaluate risk and prevent exposures that could harm young infants and children.  Read more about this study at the California Aggie

Linking Environmental Toxicants and Human Health

    Article by Shivani Kamal Many diseases and disabilities such as autism, obesity, asthma, respiratory illness, allergies and a weakened immune system are a product our environment! They’re all outcomes linked to the environmental exposure of toxins in the air, pollutants in drinking water and even common household and personal-care products. Multi-disciplinary studies aim to reduce environment-related diseases, and are growing the next generation of environmental health scientists. Environmental health science is the study of how the environment and surroundings impact human health and disease. This may include natural settings of the air, water and soil, indoor settings like home or work as well as the social features of the environment. Environmental hazards impact human health in both urban and rural areas, particularly in the San Joaquin and Central Valley Region, comprising a total of 18 counties in Northern California. Read the full article at the California Aggie