Subtitle: “Dorothy, that’s a no-brainer, Emily Willingham’s article on PCB’s, also known as polychlorinated biphenyls.” – answered the Wizard of Oz
Article excerpt: “Autism research generally falls into one of three categories: cause, treatment or what autistic people want and need, with representation and attention in roughly that order.”
If you’re not familiar with Emily Willingham, she’s a biologist and writer for the Forbes magazine and online website, and in my opinion, one of the most courageous and common sense writers about autism with a slant towards supporting autistics and neurodiversity.
In this particular article of hers, she references a 35 page research study published last month that explicitly implies that PCB’s which were banned in 1979 and used for over one hundred years are another major ’cause du jour’ of autism. This particular research report/study concluded that higher levels of some organochlorine compounds during pregnancy are associated with ASD and ID. The ‘ID’ pertains to Intellectual Disability.
To be fair, PCB’s have been proven to be neuro-developmental toxic agents, and unfortunately it takes months to years to dissolve those from one’s system, and in this study the authors concluded that pregnant women exposed to these were more likely to be at risk for birthing an autistic child.
However, they are more carcinogenic (cancer) than triggers for autism, and that was Ms. Willingham’s point.
Article excerpt: “The autistic children in the study also were far likelier to have older parents and mothers with a higher education, both already established factors in autism odds.”
The above excerpt was Ms. Willingham’s rebuttal to the article. It has already been established that ‘older parents’ and ‘highly educated people’ seem to have a disproportionate amount of autistic offspring and I’m one of them.
Ms. Willingham went further to reference a study of the Inuits of Northern Quebec and a Finnish study that concluded there were no connections of PCB’s and abnormal neuro-development in offspring such as autism. The Inuits ingest high concentrations of PCB’s due to their high fat diet which is how PCB’s continue in the food chain, so they are a great reference population for pursuing this potential ‘smoking gun’ of an autism cause.
Article excerpt: “They cite typical equivocations scientists use when they want to rationalize the work they’re currently doing: designs are flawed, populations are small.”
So what does this all mean?
We autistics are fuel for scientists to explore, research, and report on, often with flaws, trying to explain why we exist and unfortunately how to make us ‘normal’ or to ‘cure’ us.
The one area of science which rarely gets talked about is the evolution of humans, and how autism might be a snapshot in time of the normal evolutionary process of humans, i.e. autistics often have larger brains at birth, autistics often have an excess of brain neurons, and autistics often have unusually high sensitive responses to stimuli which in turn can either aid the individual or drive that autistic person slightly bonkers as it does me! 🙂
There are a couple of reasons that I decided to write this post.
First, my objective is to introduce you to Ms. Emily Willingham if you’re not already familiar with her writings about autism. She is one of the best scientists/writers about current autism issues available on the internet, and I suggest that you follow her to stay current on either interesting stuff or the nonsense which she often picks up on as well and writes about.
Secondly, most autistics get annoyed and are basically fed-up with the plethora of autism ’causes du jour’ and are simply looking for acceptance and support in order to co-exist with our fellow humans as equals. Whether or not PCB’s that were banned in 1979 contribute to autism is irrelevant, it’s not going to change anything nor prevent another birth of an autistic baby.
And finally, I hope enough autistic voices get loud enough to eventually change the paradigm of research from causes or cures, to focusing on enabling us to be equal partners in society through new research that improves our lives such has been done via tools like the iPad which functions as a communication device for those of us that cannot speak.
That is what Autism Research should be about, improving the lives of the living and not attempting to reengineer nature.