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Wednesday, June 8, 2011


Shari Roan writes at The Los Angeles Times:
Autism is not caused by one or two gene defects but probably by hundreds of different mutations, many of which arise spontaneously, according to research that examined the genetic underpinnings of the disorder in more than 1,000 families.

The findings, reported in three studies published Wednesday in the journal Neuron, cast autism disorders as genetically very complex, involving many potential changes in DNA that may produce, essentially, different forms of autism.

The affected genes, however, appear to be part of a large network involved in controlling the development of synapses, the critical junctions between nerve cells that allow them to communicate, according to one of the three studies.

Summaries of the articles:

Could household chemicals be causing an increase in autism? The evidence isn’t cut and dried, but a coalition of environmental and health advocates said yesterday that it’s suggestive enough for people to worry.

Shoppers can’t possibly avoid all potentially dangerous chemicals on their own -- questions have been raised about chemicals found in canned foods, clothing, furniture, cleaning products, pesticides, air pollution, cosmetics, toys and baby items. So, the government must do more to regulate them, the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families group said.

“We need chemical policy that protects our most vulnerable citizens,” said Donna Ferullo, director of program research at the Autism Society, a parent advocacy group.

The Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition called for an overhaul of the three-decades-old federal law that regulates chemical safety, called the Toxic Substances Control Act. Earlier this year, Senator Frank Lautenberg, D-NJ, introduced legislation to modify the law, though the odds of passing major chemical industry reform in an election year are slim.