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Environment Health & Fitness

Are increased Autism cases in last few decades a hidden work of Climate change?

Autism has recorded an increase of about 2.6% in just last 3 decades, i.e., as high as every 110 per 10,000 individuals, as per the study published in ScienceDirect.

Apparently, Autism (and ASD: Autism Spectrum Disorders) have been one of the most troubling yet undiscussed challenges of human morbidities.

It is a complex progressive condition that involves long-term challenges regarding social communication, constricted interests, and repetitive behavior, although the degree of these impediments will depend on person to person.

These symptoms may surface when the child is 2 or 3 years old or may be mild enough to be noticed later, although most of these could be improved using evidence-based psychosocial interventions.

Difficulty in making friends, non-proficiency while using non-verbal gestures, sensory hypersensitivity like loud noises etc. may be easily recognized.

While some others like rigid behavior, extreme focus on niche subjects even expecting others to follow the same etc. may require specialized care and concern.

While there is no cure, are there reasons for Autism?

Genetic factors are always there like certain chromosomal features or aberrations. Medications like thalidomide (beneficial cancer drug), valproate etc., earlier consumed during pregnancy has a critical association with autism in newly born.

Elderly parents during conception or an autistic sibling involve greater risk of autism in humans.

With increasing technology and research in the field like genetic sequencing and DNA splicing, Scientists will soon be able to identify genes exposed to environmental stresses and undergone changes.

This will enable rooting out the possible characteristics of autism even before being born and subsequent display of the disease.

Why has autism been increasing in current times?

With many convincing but unfounded theories cropping up in US based on the information that autism rates have been spurring out of control, people have even blamed vaccines for the rise.

Well, people may say what they say.

The Experts have attributed this increment to better awareness, better access to services, and an inclusive criterion to diagnose such diseases, characterized by the patient’s interests, behaviors and even interactions.

Environment and Autism: A risk hidden in nature

“Up until 2007, we had virtually no research on what I think of as the world of environmental hazards and autism,” explains the Environmental Epidemiologist, when the prospection began in 2010.

While climate change has occurred widely, several factors like prenatal exposure to air pollution serves as a reason for developing autism.

Air pollution leads to the release of many dangerous neurotoxicants, which can trigger disorder in human body, as ascertained by studies like “childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and the Environment” or CHARGE.

It’s not just the air pollutants, exposure during second and third trimester with even the organophosphate pesticides like chlorpyrifos, being used for increased agriculture productivity, increases risk of autism by 60%.

These chemicals, sinking in the water table worldwide, especially at places experiencing water stress, interfere with the normal social, exploratory and vocal behaviors when exposed.

Environmental factors are anyways, often difficult to measure and so it is never certain, which factor is likely to trigger any disability.

Knowing more about any disease, helps us fight it. For example, it has been found in some studies that Folic acid or Vitamin D tablets before conception, reduce the chances of developing autism in the foetus.

There are ongoing studies in the world looking to indicate and find out environmental factors at the earliest developmental stages that can worsen or improve the child’s health.

Last year, a paper got published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health that worked on the effects of climate change on allergies, autoimmunity and also microbiome.

This takes into cognizance the benefit of microorganisms living inside the human body — those maintain the delicate balance of the environmental conditions such as allergies, autism and immune disorders.

Due to climate change and global warming, the gut bacteria may find it difficult to survive in human gut or its functions may be disrupted, this has already been linked to several neurological diseases like multiple sclerosis, autism (ASD) and Parkinson’s disease.

By adopting more “green practices” and re-instating conservation behavior, we can try to reduce such environmental risks those can spill-over to the human world.

Nature offers solutions in the same manner as it creates problems for everyone degrading it. But to reduce the probable antimicrobial exposure, we need to look more into Nature for answers and trouble it less.

About the author

Alaina Ali Beg

I am a lover of all arts and therefore can dream myself in all places where the World takes me. I am an avid animal lover and firmly believes that Nature is the true sorcerer.

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