It's rare when The New York Times deems any criticism of corporate power fit to print. Therefore, I immediately noticed a February 25, 2010 op-ed by Nicholas D. Kristof entitled, "Do Toxins Cause Autism?" Calling autism a "frighteningly common affliction," Kristof says the Centers for Disease Control reports that autism disorders now affect almost 1% of children. He goes on to tell his readers about a Current Opinion in Pediatrics report that cites "historically important, proof-of-concept studies that specifically link autism to environmental exposures experienced prenatally." The report's author is Dr. Philip J. Landrigan, professor of pediatrics at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York and chairman of the school's department of preventive medicine. Landrigan adds that the "likelihood is high" that many chemicals "have potential to cause injury to the developing brain and to produce neurodevelopmental disorders."
Kristof refrains from any serious focus on corporate-produced toxins but consider a recent Swedish study that found: "Infants or toddlers who lived in bedrooms with vinyl, or PVC, floors were twice as likely to have autism five years later, in 2005, than those with wood or linoleum flooring."
As Derrick Jensen sez:
"Let's be clear: Those in power are poisoning children, stealing their physical and cognitive health: making them weak, sick, and stupid. How close must the culture cut before you will fight back?"
Of course, corporate-funded scientists will provide counter-evidence, politicians will call for decades-long studies, and the toxins will continue to be produced and distributed.
According to the World Health Organization, "unintentional poisonings kill an estimated 355 000 people globally each year. In developing countries—where two thirds of these deaths occur—such poisonings are associated strongly with excessive exposure to, and inappropriate use of, toxic chemicals. In many such settings, toxic chemicals may be emitted directly into soil, air, and water--from industrial processes, pulp and paper plants, tanning operations, mining, and unsustainable forms of agriculture--at levels or rates well in excess of those tolerable to human health."
This is why I'm proposing a new variation on my world-renowned Seat Belt Supposition. If human health issues increase and the production of toxins increase but no one can agree if there's a correlation, why not play it safe? Reduce toxins to the point of elimination and the entire debate becomes moot. The only voices raised in anger will be emanating from corporate boardrooms. But ask yourself this: What's more important, corporate profits or the survival of life on Earth?
Good First Step: Reduce Your Pesticide Exposure
Fun fact: We now produce pesticides at a rate more than 13,000 times faster than we did in 1962, when Rachel Carson published Silent Spring.
Suggestion: Check out The Shopper's Guide to Pesticides.
Good Second Step: Expose Corporate Polluters
A Note About Vaccines
Few health-related topics can stir as much debates as vaccines. Much has been about a possible correlation between vaccines and autism but some folks put this down as myth. Since there is no shortage of mainstream medical info on vaccines, in the name of "fair and balanced," it might be helpful to explore some of the counterpoints, e.g. a vaccine may contain any of the following: formaldehyde, mercury, aluminum, cells from sickened animals (calf lymph, monkey kidney, chick embryo), and genetically-altered materials. The impact of that toxic is difficult (to say the least) to quantify.
"There are about 12,000 reports made to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System every year," explains Barbara Loe Fisher, president and co-founder of the National Vaccine Information Center. "If the number 12,000 only represents 10 percent of what is occurring, then the real number may be 120,000 vaccine adverse events. If 12,000 reports represents only one percent of the actual total, then the real number may be 1.2 million vaccine adverse events annually."
As with all things scientific, it's always a good idea to get a broad range of perspectives and input in order to make informed decision.