"... in the case of great health dangers of modern times — mercury, lead, tobacco, asbestos — journalists were too slow to blow the whistle. In public health, we in the press have more often been lap dogs than watchdogs."
It seems that the MSM--mainstream media--is belatedly ramping up its coverage of the autism epidemic to levels commensurate with its significance as a public health emergency with critical fiscal implications. This past Thursday, The New York Times weighed in with an excellent Op-Ed piece by two-time Pulitzer Prizewinner Nicholas Kristof entitled, "Do Toxins Cause Autism?" http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/25/opinion/25kristof.html
That's been a question very much on our minds, quite possibly because some of the seminal work in this burgeoning field has been, and is being done here in Boston, notably by Harvard Neurologist Dr.Martha Herbert, director of the TRANSCEND research laboratory at Mass. General Hospital. Hers was once a lonely voice. But, as Kristof notes, "Concern about toxins in the environment used to be a fringe view. Alarm has moved into the medical mainstream. Toxicologists, endocrinologists and oncologists seem to be the most concerned."
Kristof cites a paper soon-to-be-published in the peer-reviewed medical journal, Current Opinion in Pediatrics by 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.
It notes “historically important, proof-of-concept studies that specifically link autism to environmental exposures experienced prenatally.” It adds that the “likelihood is high” that many chemicals “have potential to cause injury to the developing brain and to produce neurodevelopmental disorders.”
Said Landrigan, “The crux of this is brain development,” he said. “If babies are exposed in the womb or shortly after birth to chemicals that interfere with brain development, the consequences last a lifetime.”
“There are diseases that are increasing in the population that we have no known cause for,” Alan M. Goldberg, professor of toxicology at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, told Kristof. “Breast cancer, prostate cancer, autism are three examples. The potential is for these diseases to be on the rise because of chemicals in the environment.”
New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg, author of a bill that would strengthen the porous Toxic Substances Control Act, put it succenctly. “Our children have become test subjects.".