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Environmental aspects of
Alisa Patel
University California, Irvine
What is Autism?
Spectrum Disorder
• Introduced first in 1911 by Eugen Bleuler
• Term used to describe person’s exclusion of the outside
world and withdrawal from social life
• 50’s &60’s thought it was caused by detached uncaring
• In 1977, Dr. Susan Folstein and Dr. Michael Rutter
published the first autism twin study, which revealed
evidence of a genetic basis for autism.
• Over the next ten years, researchers conducted
additional studies that further yielded evidence of a
genetic component to autism as well as refined the
symptoms of autism.
Why the Increase?
• Changing definitions &diagnostic criteria
• Other factors: methods for case finding,
availability of services, focus on early
intervention for preschoolers
• Possible environmental exposures:
mercury, viruses, autoimmune disorders,
even childhood vaccinations?
• Glutathione most important tool for
detoxifying and excreting metals
• Imbalance in the ratio of active to inactive
• Autistic children showed a significant
impairment to maintain a healthy
• Toxicity to the developing brain and
nervous system
• 1/6 pregnancies exposed to methyl
mercury above EPA recommended level
• Exposed from seafood consumption
• HepB vaccinations carry thimerosal (19882002)
• Preservative in vaccines
• Removed from shelves
• Environmental triggers are a neglected
component of autism research
• Environmental chemicals that provoke
oxidative stress could contribute to autism
or other health problems
• Impaired antioxidant production provides a
common rationale for many disparate
features of autistic disorders
• Autism rates higher, Glutathione levels lower
in males
• Developmental approach
– Consistency
– Structure
– Stimulation
Behavior approach
Life Style changes
Further Reading