New Study Reveals Way to Decrease Autism Risk

Jenny Benjamin
3

pesticide signLike many mothers-to-be, I worry about having a child with special needs. So I take my prenatal vitamins, I eat organic fruits and vegetables, I avoid household cleaning products and particularly stinky chemical fumes. My hope is that maybe I'll have some kind of control, and be able to prevent illnesses and disorders in my unborn babies -- of course, a part of me knows better.

But, with every new study that comes out, we get closer to some explanations. (Still there are no solutions, and certainly no answers.) One recent study found that the number of children on the autism spectrum is higher than once thought, especially when you take into account those with Asperger's Syndrome. And now, a study has come out that found that children conceived during the winter months are more likely to develop autism than children conceived in the summertime. Why is that?

One of the researchers, Irva Hertz-Picciotto, chief of the division of environmental and occupational health in the Department of Public Health Sciences in the UC Davis School of Medicine, believes:

Studies of seasonal variations can provide clues about some of the underlying causes of autism. Based on this study, it may be fruitful to pursue exposures that show similar seasonal patterns, such as infections and mild nutritional deficiencies. However, it might be that conception is not the time of susceptibility. Rather, it could for instance be an exposure in the third month of pregnancy, or the second trimester, that is harmful. If so, we might need to look for exposures occurring a few months after conceptions that are at higher risk. For example, allergens that peak in the spring and early summer.

The study authors also suggest that exposure to pesticides and other environmental toxins, used more often in the spring months, might be to blame. In fact, another study done recently found that prenatal exposure to linked to a lower IQ in children.

Obviously, you can't really control when you get pregnant, and you're probably not going to skip the baby-making for a three-month stretch based on this study alone. But, it does suggest that exposure to some environmental pollutants are doing more damage to our unborn babies than we realized. Until we have more answers, it probably doesn't hurt to thoroughly wash our fruits and vegetables, buy organic when possible, and stay as far away from pesticides, bug sprays, and harsh chemicals as we can.

Are you strict about avoiding environmental pollutants?


Image via jetsandzeppelins/Flickr

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