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A recent study may contribute to explaining why autism spectrum disorder (ASD) rates are rising so rapidly in the US. The CDC reports that 1 in 36 children have autism spectrum disorder as of 2020!! Researchers and physicians agree that things in the environment (e.g., pesticides) are playing a role in this increase.

Even though the study was conducted in mice, it examined the impact of pesticides called pyrethroids on neurological development. They found that even at low levels that humans are typically exposed to, there were neurological effects on mice who were exposed during pregnancy. Their behaviors were altered in a negative way, for example an increase in repetitive behaviors.

Pyrethroids are being used in increasing amounts in the US for all sorts of insect treatments, both inside and outside of homes. It's very frequently used against mosquitos. Studies find that 70 to 80% of the US population have pyrethroid breakdown products (metabolites) in the blood. This is because we are exposed to chronic low levels - whether in the air, in water, around our homes or workplace.

The researchers wrote in the published research that scientists are especially concerned with pyrethroid exposure because it has a harmful effect on fetal development in both humans and animals. Studies are finding links from pyrethroid exposure during pregnancy or infancy and developmental delays.

"Critically, evidence from recent epidemiology and longitudinal studies suggests that ambient prenatal exposure to pyrethroid pesticides poses a risk for autism, developmental delay, and neurodevelopmental disorders in general. Analysis of data from the CHARGE study showed a significant increase in risk for either ASD or developmental delay from exposure during pregnancy to pyrethroid pesticides being applied up to 1.5 km from the home. A regional study in New York showed an association between areas where aerial application of pyrethroid pesticides was used, and ASD and developmental delay prevalence in the area. Additionally, the presence of pyrethroid metabolites in blood or urine correlates with risk for ADHD in children."

Bottom line: Avoid using pyrethroids around the home and yard. Look into IPM (Integrated Pest Management) or organic and natural ways to deal with pests. Pyrethroids are also toxic to bees, and we need bees. Synthetic pyrethroids (which is what is commonly used) are not like natural extracts from the chrysanthemum flower, and don't let someone tell you they are.

Excerpts from Medical Xpress: Research links common insecticide to neurodevelopmental disorders

A new study from The University of Toledo suggests early exposure to a common class of insecticides called pyrethroids may increase the risk of autism and other developmental disorders, even at levels currently recognized as safe by federal regulators. ...continue reading "Pyrethroids and Autism Spectrum Disorder"

Toddler Credit: Wikipedia

It turns out that the baby gut microbiome is loaded with all sorts of viruses, and most of the species were unknown till now. All the viruses living in the gut is the virome. Analyzing baby poop is a way to find out what viruses live in the gut (intestines) of babies.

A team of scientists did an in-depth analysis of the poop (from diapers) of healthy one year old Danish children and found more than 10,000 new virus species! The overwhelming majority of the viruses are phages, which are viruses that attack and inhabit bacteria. There were many more viruses than bacteria in the baby poop.

Most of the phages are harmless, but some others are not so harmless, and this results in immune responses from the human host. In other words, all of this is normal and part of "training" the immune system in early childhood. The researchers named the newly discovered viruses after children participating in the study (e.g., Amandaviridae, Andyviridae).

By the way, it is normal for multitudes of viruses, bacteria, and fungi to live in the gut of humans throughout life - it's the gut microbiome.

Excerpts from Washington Post: Scientists identify thousands of unknown viruses in babies’ diapers

Research involving Danish babies’ dirty diapers has provided a plethora of information on previously unknown viruses — and the best view yet of the makeup of the infant gut microbiome. ...continue reading "Healthy Babies Have Thousands of Viruses In The Gut"

Child Credit: Wikipedia

The CDC reports that autism (autism spectrum disorder) rates are still increasing in the US, from 1 in 150 twenty years ago to 1 in 36 children in 2020. That's huge!

It's not just better screening and diagnosis. Rates are increasing so rapidly that researchers agree that there are environmental factors going on. But what are they?

The researchers of the report point out known factors (e.g., age of parents, multiple gestation birth, prematurity, genetics), but what is not discussed are all the chemical toxins in our environment that people are exposed to both prenatally and after birth (postnatally). Studies find that pregnant women are exposed to more harmful industrial chemicals nowadays than ever before.

For example, lead, heavy metals, and pesticides. People use pesticides in the home, on home exteriors, in their gardens and lawns, on pets, on crops, they're in foods we eat, in water we drink, even in rainfall (!). Millions of pounds are used each year in the US. Many of them have neurological effects.

This means that babies and young children are also exposed to more pesticides than ever before. The American Academy of Pediatrics has been warning about the dangers of pesticide exposure in children for years.

Excerpts from Futurity (site for research news from universities): United States autism rates hit new high

More children have been diagnosed with autism than at any time since monitoring began more than two decades ago, according to new federal studies. About 4% of 8-year-old boys and 1% of 8-year-old girls, in the United States have autism, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). ...continue reading "Autism Spectrum Disorder Rates Hit New High"

A number of studies in the past decade found that exposure to furry pets (e.g., cats, dogs) in  the first year of a child's life is important for preventing later allergies (animal, food, pollen). A recent large study from Japan found that exposure to pet cats and dogs during pregnancy (developing fetus) and the first year of life confirms that furry pet exposure is important in reducing the risk of food allergies until at least 3 years of age.

While pet dogs kept inside had a protective effect, pet dogs kept outside did not. Also, the type of pet was important. Indoor pet dog exposure reduced the number of children with egg, milk, and nut allergies, while cat exposure was associated with fewer egg, wheat, and soybean allergies. However, these beneficial results did not apply to pet hamsters, birds, and turtles.

Why is this happening? It's thought that early in life exposure to furry pets (dander, microbes) helps train the developing immune system. Their gut microbes also have differences. By the way, other studies found that exposing a child in the first year of life to potential problem foods (e.g., peanut butter, eggs) reduces the incidence of that specific food allergy.

From Science Daily: Living with pet cats or dogs is associated with fewer food allergies in young children, study finds

In an analysis of over 65,000 infants from Japan, children exposed to pet cats or indoor dogs during fetal development or early infancy tended to have fewer food allergies compared to other children, according to a study published March 29, 2023 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Hisao Okabe from the Fukushima Regional Center for the Japan Environment and Children's Study, Japan, and colleagues. ...continue reading "Reduce the Risk of Food Allergies By Having Pet Dogs or Cats"

Most people don't realize how quickly many pesticide levels decrease in our bodies after switching to eating organic foods. Studies find significantly lower levels in a few weeks for many pesticides, but in the case of glyphosate - it's within days!

This is significant because each year more health harms are being linked with glyphosate exposure, such as cancer, shorter pregnancies, disruption of the gut microbiome, cancer, kidney toxicity, and liver inflammation.

Glyphosate (found in Roundup) is the most widely used herbicide (weed killer) in the world. Millions of pounds are used each year in the US, typically for weed control in outdoor areas, as well as on genetically modified crops (e.g., corn, soybeans, canola), and frequently right before harvest on conventional crops (e.g., wheat, oats, barley).

Food is the primary source of glyphosate exposure. Many non-organic foods (especially wheat, oats, barley, soybeans, legumes) contain glyphosate residues. Glyphosate is even found in breakfast cereals Organic food does not contain glyphosate  - it's use is not allowed in organic food production.

Researchers first tested the urine of people eating a totally non-organic diet, and then when eating an all organic diet. There was a 70% reduction in glyphosate and its metabolite AMPA within 3 days. Children had significantly higher levels of glyphosate and AMPA than adults in their urine in both the non-organic and organic phases of the study.

Bottom line: Eat as many organic foods as possible. And don't use glyphosate (Roundup) on your property.

From Environmental Health News: Organic diets quickly reduce the amount of glyphosate in people’s bodies

Eating an organic diet rapidly and significantly reduces exposure to glyphosate—the world's most widely-used weed killer, which has been linked to cancer, hormone disruption and other harmful impacts, according to a new study. ...continue reading "An Organic Diet Rapidly Lowers Glyphosate Levels In the Body"

Millions of pounds of pesticides are used each year in the US for all sorts of reasons - crops, lawns, inside homes, aerial spraying, etc. But what many people don't realize is that the pesticides get into us and they have harmful effects on us. Pesticides can be absorbed through the skin, ingested (from food and water), or inhaled.

One pesticide that we're being exposed to in increasingly larger amounts each year is glyphosate, commonly known as Roundup. Food is the main way glyphosate gets into us, and so we are exposed to it almost daily. And yes, it is in almost all of us. It's used for weed control in outdoor areas, as well as on genetically modified crops (e.g., corn, soybeans), and frequently right before harvest on conventional crops (e.g., wheat, oats, barley).

Recently researchers at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health found that glyphosate exposure in childhood is linked to liver inflammation, fatty liver disease, and metabolic syndrome in early adulthood. These conditions can lead to diabetes, heart disease, and strokes.

There is increasing evidence of harms from glyphosate (e.g., shorter pregnancies, disruption of the gut microbiome, cancer, kidney toxicity).

What to do to lower exposure to glyphosate? Eat organic foods whenever possible. Levels in the body will go down within a week. Organic farmers and food producers are not allowed to use glyphosate.

From Environmental Health News: Kids’ glyphosate exposure linked to liver disease and metabolic syndrome

Over the last decade, Dr. Charles Limbach noticed something strange in his family medicine practice in East Salinas, California.

Kids between 5 and 15 years old showed elevated levels of liver enzymes, a sign of liver inflammation. Limbach ordered a panel of medical tests on each patient and repeatedly saw the same result: fatty liver disease. ...continue reading "A Commonly Used Pesticide, Children, and Liver Inflammation"

Study after study shows that reading to young children is beneficial in several ways, and now another study can be added to the list. Positive effects of reading at least 1 book a day to a baby starting at 2 weeks of age can be seen in the baby's language by 9 months of age.

Reading aloud to your child increases the child's vocabulary and speech, but it is also a great way to bond with your child.

The researchers point out that many studies find that: "Ultimately, the age at which parents begin reading to their children correlates with language development and academic achievement."

Each parent in the study was given 20 popular young children's books to read to their baby. A few were definitely above an infant's comprehension level (e.g., Owl Babies by Waddell), while others could be considered by many as first books (e.g., the board book Everywhere Babies).

Science Daily: Daily, consistent parental reading in the first year of life improves infants' language scores

Daily reading improved language development in infants 12 months and younger, according to a recent study by researchers at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine. ...continue reading "Reading to Infants Helps With Language Development"

Some research studies are funny. Really funny, as in WTF - did they actually do this? I recently read an entertaining article about one such study (done a few years ago) by six physicians who conducted the study on themselves. Each swallowed a small plastic Lego head and then checked their feces (poo!) to see how long it took to be excreted!

They found that the Lego heads actually passed through the gastrointestinal system quite rapidly and without any problems. (But one never found the Lego piece because he didn't thoroughly check!) The researchers (all pediatric health care professionals in either the UK or Australia) had wonderful descriptions of their results - using such terms as Stool Hardness and Transit (SHAT) and the Found and Retrieved Time (FART).

And yes, it actually has real life relevance. The results were reassuring because children swallow small plastic objects all the time, and the study showed they can pass through the system quickly. In this study the average was less than 2 days (1.7 days) for the Lego head to be excreted.

[NOTE: These results do not apply to children swallowing small (button & lithium coin) batteries - that is an emergency situation requiring immediate medical help!]

The writer Sabrina Imbler at the site Defector wrote an entertaining account of the researchers and their study. Excerpt from the article: An Oral History Of The Time Six Doctors Swallowed Lego Heads To See How Long They’d Take To Poo

In 2018, a question burned in the minds of six pediatric healthcare professionals: How long does it take for a small ingested object to pass through a child's digestive system? Unwilling to ask actual children to experimentally swallow a foreign object, these skilled workers volunteered their own gastrointestinal tracts for science, and published a paper detailing their experiment in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, which went viral in a way that papers published in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health usually do not. ...continue reading "Six Physicians Swallowed Lego Heads Study"

Age at when children first start kindergarten is controversial, with many parents choosing to keep children (especially boys) home an additional year. There is also concern that so many children are diagnosed with ADHD and given prescription medications for it from a young age.

The results of a recent large study suggest that we absolutely should be rethinking when children start school, we should be more flexible about it, and not be so quick to diagnose ADHD in young children. Instead of just looking at a child's age, assess a child's school readiness.

The study found that the youngest children in a class are more likely to be prescribed ADHD medications, which may be unnecessary. It's not ADHD (characterized by concentration difficulties, hyperactivity and impulsivity), it's just immaturity. The youngest children are immature compared to the older children in a class.

Thus the prescriptions for "behavior problems" may be totally unnecessary. These children are overmedicated! The study also found that if the youngest in the class were born prematurely, then it's like a double whammy against them.

By the way, in the United States, one additional problem is that kindergarten has become more like first grade (lots of worksheets and sitting still for long periods). And many schools have eliminated recess totally - time when children can move, play, and get rid of excess energy.

From Medical Xpress: Study suggests the youngest children in class are being overmedicated for ADHD

Christine Strand Bachmann has led a study that includes all Norwegian children born between 1989 and 1998, a total of 488,000 people. ...continue reading "Study Finds That Youngest Children In Class May Just Be Immature and Don’t Need ADHD Drugs"

It has been known for years that wearing your shoes indoors means that everything that is on the ground outdoors will be tracked into the home. Pesticides, heavy metals, lead, animal feces, and everything else out there.

Babies crawling around the floor (and also putting things into the mouth) get an extra heavy dose of "contaminants" that were tracked in. We all absorb contaminants through our skin, ingest (the mouth), or breathe them in.

All these contaminants become part of our indoor air quality. Our indoor air is not just the outside contaminants that made their way in, but there is also shedding of skin and cloth fibers from us and pets, as well as outgassing and breakdown (the dust) of whatever is in the home. We can't get rid of all contaminants, but we can really lower our exposure to them by not wearing our shoes indoors.

Bottom line: Take your shoes off at the door.

A nice discussion of this issue is in an article written by Professors M.P. Taylor and G. Filippelli earlier this year. Some excerpts from The Conversation: Wearing shoes in the house is just plain gross. The verdict from scientists who study indoor contaminants

You probably clean your shoes if you step in something muddy or disgusting (please pick up after your dog!). But when you get home, do you always de-shoe at the door?  ...continue reading "Leave Your Shoes At The Door"