December 2006


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Science for the People Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Mitchel Cohen <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 25 Dec 2006 03:37:58 -0500
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Science for the People Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
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Here's some great work done by my friend Dr. Martha Herbert on the role of environmental toxins in children diagnosed as autistic. Thought you'd be interested.

Hi Martha,
Great work! I found the following paragraph striking:

>For example, large numbers of children with autism have various forms of gastrointestinal
disease, or immune systems that react abnormally. "The gut and immune systems
are the body's gateways to the environment, and they are also very connected
to the brain."<

Researchers have found that some mosquitoes that had been sprayed with organophosphate
pesticides have a defect in their stomachs that makes them susceptible to carrying
West Nile.* I am not sure if this "defect" is then transmitted genetically,
but it certainly opens up an intersecting path to explore with autism and other 
ailments, including the brain malformations that occur with West Nile.

* pesticides make it easier for mosquitoes and other organisms to get and transmit
West Nile Virus due to damage to their stomach lining. (Haas, George. "West
Nile virus, spraying pesticides the wrong response." American Bird Conservancy,
October 23, 2000); An additional wrinkle in this scenario: The Virus itself may 
be a marker, not the cause, of mosquitoes exposed to these pesticides. I wonder 
if the same might be true of autism and other ailments.

Again, great work!


-----Original Message-----

>FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                
CONTACT:   Marguerite Colston 
>Phone:  (240) 672-4734
>Email: [log in to unmask]
>ASA Releases Research on Environmental Health and Autism 
>Autism Advocate Special Edition and website out today explore the role of
>neurotoxins on the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders 
>Bethesda, MD (12/21/2006) -- The Autism Society of America (ASA) today released
>a special edition of its magazine, Autism Advocate, which explores the critical
>effect on environmental toxins on the incidence and treatment of individuals
>with autism. Paired with a new ASA environmental health website highlighting
>leading scientists, professionals, and individuals affected by autism, this
>two-platform media launch is the first-ever effort to bring leading scientists,
>doctors, therapists, families and individuals Autism Advocate: Environmental
>Health Issuewith autism together to examine the linkages between environmental
>health and autism.
>By highlighting the role of environmental factors which may possibly trigger
>autism spectrum disorders, ASA hopes to broaden the current paradigm of autism
>diagnosis and treatment, now focused mostly on behavior and social interaction,
>to include autism as a condition with treatable medical features.  "For
>long, parents receive the diagnosis of autism and are told there is nothing 
>can be done medically.  As the evidence presented by these publications shows,
>children with autism present with medical symptoms that can be treated, which
>may then improve their abilities to learn, live and maximize their potential,"
>commented ASA President and CEO Lee Grossman.
>Dr. Martha Herbert, Pediatric Neurologist and Assistant Professor at Harvard
>Medical School and a member of ASA's Panel of Professional Advisors, explains
>this paradigm further: "We're saying, yes, autism is biological, but
more than
>'s more than the brain, it's the whole body, and it's
a chronic
>illness." While genetics have been driving federally-funded research into
>disorder, more than genetics is needed to yield answers about autism. "Autism
>not simply wired in before you are born," said Dr. Herbert, who along with
>colleagues has shown abnormal changes that happen in brains of those with autism
>after birth. "When you include environment, lots of things in autism make
>sense," she said.  For example, large numbers of children with autism have
>various forms of gastrointestinal disease, or immune systems that react
>abnormally. "The gut and immune systems are the body's gateways to 
>environment, and they are also very connected to the brain." As people 
see that
>treating medical problems can help children with autism function better, Herbert
>said that the new paradigm in autism research should look more at how children
>with autism can change and improve, and incorporate treatments that can restore
>the body's resiliency and the brain's ability to adapt. 
>30 articles cover this important topic.  An illustrative list includes: 
>to Get a Grip - Martha R. Herbert, M.D., Ph.D.  (Harvard University)
>=4747> Can Exposure to Environmental Toxicants Influence Autism Susceptibility?
>- Isaac N. Pessah, Ph.D. (M.I.N.D. Institute, UC Davis)
>·         Autism's New Paradigm - Michael Lerner, Ph.D. (Commonweal)
>·         We Can't Wait - interview with Dr. Thomas Insel (Director, National
>Institute of Mental Health at NIH)
>cID=4751> Epidemiologic Approaches to Autism and the Environment - Craig
>Newschaffer, Ph.D.
>·         The Prenatal Environment and Neuroinflammation in Autism - Susan
>Connors, M.D., Carlos Pardo, M.D. and Andrew Zimmerman, M.D. (Johns Hopkins)
>This effort is part of a broader project funded in part by a grant from the 
>Merck Fund.  ASA's project is overseen by an Advisory Board on Environmental
>Health, who is undertaking a "campaign of influence" for early 2007
which will
>build a grassroots community to continue research and awareness of the effect
>environmental influences on autism. 
>To access the website, visit  <>
>To schedule an interview with ASA or one of our authors and find out more about
>this important initiative, please contact Marguerite Colston, Director of
>Communications, at  <mailto:[log in to unmask]>
>[log in to unmask]
>About ASA
>ASA is the oldest and largest grassroots organization within the autism
>community. Today, more than 100,000 members and supporters are connected through
>a working network of nearly 200 chapters nationwide. ASA is dedicated to
>increasing public awareness about autism and the day-to-day issues faced by
>individuals with autism, their families and the professionals with whom they