By Julie Obradovic
As we learned last week, a new study released by the NIMH has determined that the environment plays a larger role than genetics in Autism than previously thought. Combined with a study released the same day that shows a correlation between anti-depressant usage among pregnant women and Autism diagnoses in their children, it's been a breath of fresh air.
That said, I can't exhale just yet.
The environment as a cause of Autism, although a welcome relief to a genetic one, leaves me nervous. Why? It is completely subject to interpretation, and I believe, leaves the door open to literally thousands, if not an infinite amount of possibilities of causation. We've already seen some examples of how researchers interpret it, and frankly, it's been more often than not less than helpful research.
There's the angle of the actual environment, like the climate, being the problem. One study showed us that Autism rates are higher where it rains more.
There's the angle of the environment of parental stimulation, like how a child is interacted with, being the problem. One study suggested parents who talk to their children less will more likely have a child with Autism.
Admittedly more helpful, there's the angle of the environment of pollution being the problem. One study showed Autism rates are higher near coal burning plants, and another showed living close to freeways having the same effect.
And then there's been the angle of the environment of contact, like what a child is touching in their own home. One study suggested pet shampoo may be implicated in Autism, and many speculate it could even be their flame retardant pajamas or household pesticides. Likewise, multiple studies have shown lead, which is unfortunately found in many of our children's toys in alarming amounts, can also lower IQ and cause developmental problems.
I suppose in the bigger picture, these do point us in a helpful direction: environmental toxins are a problem. But again, given there are an infinite amount of combinations of them, I'm concerned this area may quickly become another vast wasteland of time, money, and effort for our children. For me, it's imperative we define exactly what environmental research means moving forward, as well as how it needs to be prioritized, in order to most effectively and immediately help our kids. The good news? Our most promising research fits neatly under one umbrella.
The Environment of Medical Intervention
The most obvious place to begin environmental research is on the places that have the most immediate and relevant impact on a child: where they are nourished, how they are nourished, and with what they are directly exposed that could logically and likely affect those two in such a way to result in the developmental delays and chronic illnesses we see in our kids. In other words, their womb, their food, and the medicine they are given that could affect them both. The antidepressant study exhibits this very thought process nicely.
On Facebook I recently spouted off in jest I could save the NIH millions by focusing on the real environment that caused my daughter's problems. I made a simple equation out of my daughter's health history that went something like this:
Take one healthy, susceptible child with a familial history of metal allergies and homocysteine problems (MTHFR positive) + a strep B positive/ mercury toxic mother (1 in 6 of us are) + intravenous antibiotics + a spinal block + meconium + more antibiotics + a mercury/aluminum laden vaccine + a metal allergy + more vaccines + Tylenol + more antibiotics + mercury toxic breast milk (tuna, very bad idea) + antibiotic laden breast milk (breast infection) + more vaccines + more Tylenol + more antibiotics (repeat 5 times with 4 different antibiotics and numerous vaccines) + anesthesia and surgery = one very sick child by age 2 who can't speak, poop, sleep, and has seizures.
Multiple people chimed in that our stories were identical, take or leave a few ingredients or results. This is significant. This is what happened to my child medically in the first two years of her life, and apparently many others. THIS is what needs to be studied. (ALL of it, not just one or two of the shots and one of their ingredients in theoretical exposures.) Was she in flame retardant pajamas? Yes, probably. Do we live near a coal burning plant? Yes, we do. But those things in and of themselves did not cause my daughter's health and brain development to deteriorate. The combination of what we did to her did. It is now our responsibility to figure out how so that we may prevent it from happening to others. THIS is the environment, despite its intent to do otherwise, that actually made her very, very sick. THIS is the environment we need to study: the environment of medical intervention.
Likewise, we also need to examine the environment of the lack of appropriate medical intervention. I should have been screened for toxicity. All pregnant women should be. My breast milk, and all nursing mothers', should have been tested. A warning, like on alcohol and cigarettes, should have been plastered across the tuna can and other fish products. My daughter, as she started to deteriorate, should have been tested for toxicity. Just as exposing her to all of these chemicals proved irresponsible and catastrophic, the failure to assess what they had done to her is equally as heinous.
The tragic fact remains, we ruined her gut flora with antibiotics right out of the womb; Fed her toxic breast milk; Injected her with heavy metals, foreign DNA and viruses; Artificially and repeatedly provoked her immune system to do so; Medicated her with a substance that inhibited her ability to detoxify; Left years of yeast overgrowth unchecked and untreated; and never bothered to test her for any issues this protocol could have caused.
And the tragic results remain, she experienced a loss of speech; Brain swelling; Yeast infections; Seizures; Constipation; Loss of IQ; Inability to sleep; Self stimulatory behaviors; Loss of imaginary play; Loss of language reception; Night terrors; Eczema; Night sweats; and repeated ear and bronchial infections.
Our explanation for these results until last week? She didn't have the right genes. Our only logical explanation moving forward? The poor thing is lucky to be alive and must have some damn good genes to have helped her survive and recover as well as she did.
The bottom line is this: The time has come to take an honest look at the difference between medical intention and medical results for our children. Now that we can put the elusive genetic theory to rest, we must demand our environmental research first go for an independent and exhaustive study of the environment of perinatal and pediatric medical intervention, the most logical and promising place to begin.
Julie Obradovic is a Contributing Editor to Age of Autism.