There has been much discussion over autism in recent years. One point that has become less and less debatable is that the risk of autism is going up. The “why,” however, is heavily debated. Some like to blame single effects like mercury in vaccination. The answer is almost certainly multifactorial.
The unfortunate aspect is that exposure to environmental chemicals in the womb coupled with poor nutritional status is affecting the genetic expression of the as-yet unborn child. These changes are called “epigentic” changes because they do not change our actual DNA, but rather the way our genes express themselves. A famous study looked at exposure of agouti mice to BPA (the chemcial used in clear plastic water bottles). The exposure completely changed the outcome of the newborn mice–they were born yellow (meaning they had a very high risk of obesity, diabetes and cancer). However, when folic acid was given to these mices along with the BPA, the mice were born normal.
So, environmental chemicals can unquestionably alter the outcome of the baby if the exposure is during critical times of development. This particular study looks at a pregnant mother living in close proximity to freeways and the risk of autism. The ones closer to the freeways had twice the risk of a child being diagnosed with autism. Living close to a freeway will increase the mom’s potential exposure to particulate matter from exhaust fumes.
Bottom line is that, in pregnancy as well as the rest of our lives, we need to do our best to avoid as manner chemicals as possible on top of eating a diet very high in phytonutrients.