Extreme Male Theory: Chemicals in Plastics Cause Autism

Chemicals in plastics linked to autismIf your life has not been touched by a child with autism, you friend’s probably has.  Autism rates are on the rise leaving parents, doctors, and scientists scrambling to find a reason.

Vaccines are often blamed, as the increase in the number of childhood inoculations seems to correspond with the increase in autism; however, a new theory is being proposed.  “Extreme Male Theory” blames endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) for autism.

EDCs are commonly found in plastics. From phthalates to BPA, EDCs have been blamed for obesity and genital defects.  Extreme Male Theory “speculates that autism is caused by something changing a fetus’ hormonal balance that then leads to over-masculinization of the developing brain.”  Dr. Harvey Karp writes for The Huffington Post:

This theory, proposed by Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen and colleagues, speculates that autism is caused by something changing a fetus’ hormonal balance that then leads to over-masculinization of the developing brain.

Could that “something” be the slurry of hormone-altering chemicals we’re exposed to every day? Are EDCs the reason autism-type disorders are 4-9 times more common in boys? (Vaccine side effects never show such lopsided impact on boys versus girls…a glaring fact that is totally ignored by those promoting the vaccine theory of autism.)

The “extreme male theory” has been supported by two interesting bits of evidence: 1) fetuses with slightly elevated levels of testosterone grow up acting extra-male (more interested in things than people, slow language development, etc.); 2) children with autism — boys and girls — show extra-male characteristics (e.g. poor social ability, language delay).

Here is where the very interesting link to EDCs comes into play: EDCs often act as weak estrogens and estrogen feminizines the body, but in a fetus’ developing brain estrogen actually has the opposite effect…it causes masculinization.

The fact EDCs has the opposite effect in fetal brain development gives credit to this theory.   Dr. Karp believes that in three to four years we will have answers directly linking EDCs to autism.  He also does not entirely refute that vaccines may play a role and supports additional studies to:

1) the autism risk in vaccinated vs. unvaccinated kids; 2) the metabolism of vaccine ingredients (like aluminum, added to make shots work better), 3) more accurate determinations of the true incidence of autism. (The number of kids getting autism is unclear. Some studies suggest that much of the autism spike is just a labeling shift: kids who used to be labeled “mentally retarded” increasingly are being labeled as “autistic.”)

Whether EDCs cause autism or not, we know they are bad for our health.  It’s time to permanently remove these chemicals from consumer products.

Image:   sunsets_for_you on Flickr under a Creative Commons License

Comments

  1. Kids don’t “get” Autism, they “are born” Autistic.

    There’s a world of difference between “autism type disorders” and Autism.

    Autism is not 4 to 9 times more common in boys than in girls. The correct states are for 5 boys with Autism there are 2 girls with Autism. Autism presents itselfs more in socially more acceptable ways in females than in males which is why it is more difficult to diagnosed a female with Autism than to diagnose a male with Autism.

  2. Crosius says:

    HuffPo is famous for this kind of mollycoddling. There is no causal link between autism and vaccination. Period.

    The only thing not getting vaccinated does is increase your risk of dying from the measles or of being sterlized by the mumps.

    That this doctor doesn’t crush this flat-out-wrong theory when presented with an opportunity to do so suggests he is courting the attention of the misguided who still believe it, which makes me suspicious of both his motives and his science.

    I’ll wait for a scientific study to appear in something reputable and peer-reviewed (ie. NOT the Huffington Post)

  3. The hare brained theory of the week – until there is some real proof one way or the other!

    Should be good for any number of conferences and such.

    Poor old EDC’s – but not to worry as most likely in ten years or so someone else will discover how wonderful they are and start a new cycle.

  4. I think that even if EDCs are proven to have some effect, they certainly can’t explain all autism. My Asperger’s kids come from a long and illustrious line of undiagnosed autistic people, as I’ve discovered with genealogical research, a line that predates the invention of modern plastics.

  5. EDC’s aren’t limited to plastics . . . they are in lots of personal care products too. And the skin is our biggest organ.

  6. We need to rethink our usage of plastics. We use plastics so regularly for “throw away” itmes, and it’s funny, since plastic never breaks down.

  7. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

    Lucy

    http://maternitymotherhood.net

  8. I’ve long considered that plastics could be a culprit for a WIDE variety of health issues. They’re a relatively new material, yet they’re insanely widespread. We absolutely absorb chemicals from the stuff through our skin and lungs…it’s unavoidable.

    The problem is that the world is so dependent on the stuff now, that eliminating it would almost certainly destroy the global economy…so much so that any proposal to do so would be a non-starter.

    Very interesting dilemma, *if* they are indeed a major health concern.

  9. This makes total sense to me!!
    While I, a woman, have never been diagnosed, my son is diagnosed as Aspergers and I believe I have a very high functioning case of it myself. This would explain a lot about the way Aspies think. For example, you know how they say that, while men speak straightforwardly while women edge around subjects, make you guess what they’re thinking, etc? Well, it seems the Aspie brain is masculinized in this way, at least for me.

Trackbacks

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  7. [...] science? Every other day another stunning article comes out that claims older fathers cause autism, chemicals in plastics cause autism, or that immunizations cause autism. Now this bit of research out of McGill University in Quebec [...]

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