In the five years since the link between autism and vaccines was proven to be based on fraudulent data, study after study has proven that vaccines are not to blame for autism spectrum disorders. But what they haven't done is explain what does cause the disorders and why the number of children diagnosed each year is skyrocketing.
At a recent Healthy Child Healthy World and Environmental Working Group luncheon designed to raise awareness about pollutants in our food and environment, Dr. Harvey Karp — the pediatrician probably best known for his wildly popular The Happiest Baby series of parenting guides — turned to the topic on many parents minds and addressed concerns about autism.
"Something has changed and we all know about all this discussion about immunizations and is it mercury in immunizations, all this kind of stuff. Doesn't seem so. Lots of studies [are] being done now, as much as you can know something in science, [and] we know that immunizations are really good and they're not associated with autism.
So the question is: well then what is going on? And there's two explanations currently. One is that we're just calling things autism that we didn't used to call autism — there's a shift in diagnosis. That clearly has happened; it might be attributed, maybe, to half of the cases. But, it seems that there's another half of cases that never existed before, that are new and that shouldn't be happening. And so, we have to ask ourselves why.
And one theory, is it's an exposure to a certain class of chemicals that are called endocrine disrupting chemicals . . . It turns out that there are many different types of chemicals that are endocrine disrupting chemicals that are in plasticized plastic. You've heard of BPA, that's an endocrine disrupting chemical. BPA was first created to be an estrogen. Then they found they could put it into plastics. Every single one of you have BPA in your bodies just from all the exposure you have. You have phthalates, which are plastic parts, as well which are in every new car...things like that. All of those have a hormonal effect and there are dozens of others; all different classes. The weird thing is that hormones are signalers, they tell cells 'Do this, don't do that' and what can happen is these hormonally active chemicals make it into the brains of young babies or even before birth and shift the brain's development.
The reason I think that this could be related to autism is because it's something that isn't split evenly between boys and girls. Boys get more autism, boys get 4 times more autism, they're diagnosed 9 times more with Asperger's Syndrome. So it could be that if we just pushed it a little bit further, that may be the reason that we're seeing this increase. I don't know the answer, but I do know that we have to find the answer. Scientists are looking for that now, but we need to do more research on it."
So just what is BPA and why did it seep into our kids' brains?
According to the EWG, it was invented 120 years ago and was most recently used to manufacture hard plastic water bottles, baby bottles, and epoxy linings of metal food cans. "BPA can mimic the hormone estrogen in the body and disrupt the endocrine system, a danger to developing humans and animals." In 2009, studies showing that BPA was leaching out of baby bottles and infant formula cans and into humans pressured leading bottle manufacturers to stop using the chemicals in their manufacturing processes, and over the next year, most states banned the use of BPA in children's products, but it is still used in many canned foods. But according to Dr. Karp, BPA's replacement, BPS, may be just as dangerous. A recent study shows that "in utero exposure to BPS might lead to neurodevelopmental disorders later in life" and "that male hormones might be particularly disturbed by this abnormal cell development."
So what's a parent to do?
BPS is not clearly marked on products and can actually be found in BPA-free products. According to The Soft Landing, parents will want to:
- Steer clear of any plastic containers marked with #7. These BPA-free products appear to be made with BPS.
- Eat as many fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables as possible. Cans used for canned fruits and veggies can be lined in BPA and BPS.
- Choose silicone storage products. They're BPA and BPS free.
- Sign up for EWG's alerts that will keep you up to date on all the latest studies and findings.