Overlooked Autism Risk Factors

April 11, 2013
Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Award-winning nutritionist and New York Times bestselling author.

Environmental factors—including EMFs and mercury—may put children at risk.

April marks Autism Awareness Month, and as statistics continue to skyrocket, it’s something every parent and future parent should educate themselves about. A quarter century ago, autism spectrum disorders (ASD) were extremely rare—only 1 out 100,000 children. Today experts estimate that 2 to 6 kids out of 1,000 will have autism. And boys are four times more likely to develop ASD than girls.

This incredible jump in autism rates has led scientists to explore environmental factors, especially in utero. Mercury—in contaminated seafood as well as vaccines—and other heavy metals (like cadmium and nickel) are prime suspects. Other likely culprits include toxic biofilms, molds, infections like Lyme disease, pollutants (including methylene chloride, quinoline, styrene, and vinyl chloride), and viruses.

Maternal deficiency in vitamin D during pregnancy is another risk factor for ASD in their children. Even pregnant women stressed by the effects of hurricanes in their third trimester appear more likely to give birth to autistic children.

If that weren’t enough, research is beginning to link electromagnetic fields (EMFs)—from cordless and mobile phones, cell phone and microwave towers, electronic and wireless devices—with ASD. In one unpublished study, alternative physician Dietrich Klinghardt, MD, discovered that a pregnant woman’s body voltage as well as children’s body voltage—measured in their bedrooms—predicted autism and other serious neurological disorders. He considers EMFs “synergistically causal,” increasing the production of toxic microbes.

“Cell phones have not been proven safe for adults, children, or pregnant women,” says Christine Hoch, executive director of Moms for Safe Wireless. Both before and after birth, children are especially sensitive to EMFs, because their developing nervous systems are fragile, their brain tissue is more conductive, and their smaller skeletons are more easily penetrated by this radiation.

“Just after conception, most fetuses are burdened with heavy metals and toxins from their mothers,” explains Hoch. “After birth, most children are able to detoxify these unwanted substances. Those whose detoxification pathways don’t work as well develop neurological conditions including autism.” A 5-year study, published in the Journal of the Australasian College of Nutritional & Environmental Medicine, suggests that EMFs from mobile phones, cell towers, and other wireless devices are “accelerating” factors in autism.

This kind of radiation also impacts fertility, and several studies suggest low-level microwaves can interfere with the genetics in the ovarian follicles. “What that means in everyday language,” says Barrie Trower, a retired British military intelligence scientist who consults for governments on microwave effects, is that “this particular mitochondrial genetic damage is irreparable.” Furthermore, if a woman whose eggs are harmed by this kind of radiation has a daughter, she will also “carry that genetic deformity, and her daughter will carry it, and her daughter will carry it.”

Every mother wants to protect her baby, but technology is moving so fast these days, it’s hard to always know what’s best.

For example, a wireless baby monitor or camera in the nursery probably seems like a great way to check in on your child. But a less expensive 50 MHz baby monitor or wired camera monitor would do the job—without exposing your tot to potentially harmful radiation.

Around the world, the warning bells are beginning to sound. The Israeli Health Ministry warned that cordless phones and their base units emit as much radiation as mobile phones. The Russian National Committee on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection recommend restricted use of wireless telecommunication devices for anyone 18 and under. In this country, by contrast, wireless devices are increasingly popular—with no pre-market testing. Go figure!

Since Americans are on their own with EMF risks, here are some ways to protect your fertility and lessen children’s radiation risks:

• Keep cell and cordless phones or other wireless devices out of the bedroom.

• Always use e-readers (like a Kindle) and laptops away from your body.

• Never put cell phones in your pocket, and don’t use them in low signal areas because more power is required, zapping you even more.

• Don’t use wireless devices in a car, bus, or train, as metal reflects EMFs causing the waves to bounce around with greater impact.

• Text, rather than talk, or use an air tube headset or speaker mode on your mobile phone.

Treating over 500 children with autism spectrum disorder, Tamara J. Mariea, CCN, has reported improving her patients’ symptoms without changing any of their previous treatment—simply by lowering the level of EMFs in her clinic!  For information on remediating EMFs in your own home, check out www.buildingbiology.net.

Dietary Influences
Today, as many as 1.5 million Americans have some form of autism, and increasingly, complementary therapies are proving beneficial. Dietary treatments have been used since the 1920s to improve behavior. Scientific evidence, for instance, suggests that food additives and sugary foods contribute to hyperactivity, a symptom of ASD.

Allergies appear to underlie hyperactivity and irritability in autism, finds one recent study. And many children with ASD experience gastrointestinal disorders. A 2-year study of 72 Danish children shows that a gluten and casein-free diet significantly improves autistic and hyperactive behavior.

“In approaching this very complex disorder, a one-size-fits-all approach is not likely to produce the hoped for results,” adds my friend and colleague, nutrition educator Marcia Zimmerman. Restrictive diets may impair the health of these children, especially if “significant nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, iron, and B vitamins are removed from their diet,” making supplements important too.

To open up the detox pathways and help the body eliminate toxins, I like Oxi-Key with one of the highest levels of catalase and SOD. These antioxidants are major quenchers of damaging free radicals that radiation of all kinds appear to create.

Personal communication: Christine Hoch, executive director, Moms for Safer Wireless, 7/21/10; Marcia Zimmerman, CN, MEd, 7/16/10

Related Articles and Podcasts

Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS, is an award-winning New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty books including The Fat Flush Plan series and her latest book, Radical Metabolism. She’s been rewriting the rules of nutrition for more than 40 years and is internationally recognized as a pioneer in the field of diet, detox and women’s health issues. 

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  1. Marne

    I would also consider that one of the causes (I would say that it’s actually the main cause) is RoundUp herbicide residue in biofuels made from “RoundUp ready” crops. I use trees and vegetation along roadsides and where vehicles idle as my indicators. I had heard a Somali woman say that Somali children’s autism rates were high, and that Somali children ride school busses more than some other children (probably due to where their communities are located). Most of the school busses are using biofuels. I wish that someone would do a study of autism rates in children who ride school busses, or test the biofuels for glyphosate residue.

  2. Anne Richards

    Lovely article! I wanted to share it on Facebook, and before doing so wanted to follow-up on the fifth from the last paragraph describing a doctor who has reported improving her patients’ ASD symptoms without changing any of their previous treatment—simply by lowering the level of EMFs in her clinic. This didn’t make sense to me, but maybe it means that during the time they were in her clinic their symptoms improved . . . ok I’ve got it. I clicked on the website and could only retrieve items in an unfamiliar script — perhaps Japanese. OK. But it seems like it would be an interesting website. Alas for being so computer unsavvy!

  3. Elan

    I recently saw a graph of growing ASD rates. The spike began in 1987. This was the first year DECT cordless phones were being sold.


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