Autism and Toxic Chemical Exposure: What is the Relationship?

By Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families

Almost 1% of 8-year-old children are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, a 10-fold increase over just a 15-year period. About 30% of this dramatic rise in autism cannot be explained by changes in the age of diagnosis and the inclusion of milder cases. Meanwhile, evidence has been accumulating that lead, mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), arsenic, toluene and other chemicals have a profound effect on the developing brain at levels that were once thought to be safe.

Since 1976 when our federal chemicals law – the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) — was enacted, very little data has been collected on the effects of most chemicals used widely in every day products on the developing nervous system. For most of the 3,000 chemicals produced in highest volume (over one million pounds per year), only 12 have been adequately tested for neurotoxicity.

To ensure healthy brain development for future generations and the safest, healthiest environment for current generations, TSCA must be updated to require that all existing and new chemicals are tested and shown to be safe for pregnant women, children, workers, and other vulnerable populations.

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