preg heartInteresting thing about autism research: Seems like the more we discover about possible causes and complicating factors, the better off everyone will be -- whether autism is a challenge in their lives personally or not. That's because nearly every new finding links autism with something dangerous in our environment or diet. Like the recent study which found that when tested, children with autism had higher levels of certain toxic metals in their blood and urine than non-autistic kids; specifically, lead, thallium, tin, and tungsten -- all of which can potentially "impair brain development and function, and also interfere with the normal functioning of other body organs and systems."

Scary, yes, but don't panic. Pregnancy is the perfect time to start limiting exposure to toxic metals. Read on for more info on each of these hazardous substances and how you can begin to take preventative measures now:

Lead:

Because millions of homes built before 1940 were constructed using lead, almost half a million U.S. children currently between the ages of 1 and 5 have blood lead levels, which are higher than the "CDC recommended level of 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood."

What you can do now:

Have your home's lead levels tested, especially if it was built before 1978 during the years when lead paint was still used on walls. Also use glassware instead of ceramic plates and cups, as some of the paints and glazes used to make these contain lead.

Thallium:

Once used in rodent poisons, thallium is released into the environment as a byproduct of "coal-burning and smelting" and "stays in the air, water, and soil for a long time" without breaking down. Thalium gets absorbed by plants, then by animals who eat those plants.

What you can do now:

Thallium is mostly introduced to humans through contaminated foods, though breathing polluted air doesn't help. Consider staying away from areas with poor quality water and skip the seafood, as thallium builds up in fish and shellfish.

Tin:

Tin is just about everywhere -- in everything from tin cans to industrial waste.

What you can do now:

Eat less canned food and avoid seafood caught from areas near industrial plants.

Tungsten:

A metal used in lightbulb filaments, welding, glass-cutting, jewelry-making, ammunition, and more, tungsten is considered an "environmental contaminant of concern" but is NOT regulated in drinking water in the U.S. (It was regulated in the former Soviet Union.)

What you can do now:

If you live near any factories, find out if tungsten is used in production. Also look into how any fireproof and waterproof materials are made before buying (these sometimes contain tungsten).

Are you concerned about exposure to toxic metals?

 

Image via Britt-kne/Flickr