autism linked to environmentSpeaking of vaccines and controversial subjects, here's some new findings on autism's link to the environment. A group of doctors in California, where autism rates are skyrocketing, feel strongly that autism may be more the result of household cleaning products, pesticides, and other chemicals than previously thought.

In a study in the journal Epidemiology, the researchers give a bunch of numbers that show increases in autism are not artificial -- that is, caused by immigration rates or more diagnoses due to increased awareness. They also toss out the probability of genetics and vaccines (thimerosal was taken out of vaccines in 1999) being a huge factor for various reasons.

Rather, these researchers are big on the idea that environmental causes, which could be altering a developing baby's brain structure, are triggering autism. They include:

Mercury and other metals

PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls, man-made chemicals used in electronics and industrial processes)

Lead

Brominated flame retardants (used in furniture and electronics);

Pet flea shampoos (mothers of autistic children were twice as likely to use them)

Phthalates (used in vinyl and cosmetics)

Antibacterial soaps (they could have ingredients that harm the brain by changing immune systems)

Infectious microbes (in the 1970s, autism rates increased due to the rubella virus).

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