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[July 17, 2006]
Toxic iPod link to shock rise in autistic children
(The Express On Sunday Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) THE huge rise of autism in Britain is linked to old iPod batteries, mobile phones and other products of the electronic age, a leading scientist claimed this weekend.
Autistic children have been shown to have problems getting rid of toxic metals - and those metals are increasingly polluting the environment, says Dr Richard Lathe.
"Think of iPod batteries, computers, television sets and mobile phones - thousands of them tossed aside without any thought to their proper disposal, " says the molecular biologist, who specialises in research into autism and other brain disorders.
"If they are buried in landfill, the mercury in the batteries leaks out when it rains, and if they are burned it goes straight up into the atmosphere."
But it's not just electronic products whose toxic metals are getting into our bodies via the air we breathe and plants and seafood we consume, he says.
"Every ship that sinks, every rusting car, every unsealed mine and every tin can in our refuse dumps contributes to a rise in the levels of metal in seawater.
"It's absolutely clear there is a rise in autism pointing to an environmental factor, with mercury and other toxic metals playing a crucial role."
In the wake of this week's reports that autism has shot up to a record high of one per cent of the population, Dr Lathe is about to publish his own shock results from a study of hundreds of children in France.
More than half those who were autistic were found to have a marker of heavy metal in their urine, he says.
"Couple this with a study published last month showing a correlation between mercury release into the environment and autism rates in Texas, and yet another study showing that autistic children have a problem getting rid of mercury through their hair, and you have a substantial body of evidence."
Dr Lathe, a former professor at Edinburgh University, says although the affected are probably genetically susceptible, we should all be worried about these pollutants leaking into the environment.
"We have biochemical indications that metal is also causing a rise in Alzheimers, ADHD, epilepsy and schizophrenia, " he says.
"And it follows that children with evidence of heavy metal exposure will almost certainly have been exposed to other risk factors like chemical pollutants."
However, Dr Lathe, whose book, Autism, Brain and Environment, has been well received, says the good news is brain damage caused by metal can be repaired.
"Chelation therapy, which removes the metals, can significantly improve behaviour in autistic children.
"It has become controversial since a death occurred in a boy in therapy in the US.
"But that is because the wrong drug was used. I stand behind the effectiveness of removing harmful metals from the body."
Autism, Brain and Environment is published by Jessica Kingsley.
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