Autism And Disappearing Bees: A Common Denominator?
By Dr Brian Moench, truthout.org, 21 April 2012 Photo shows AutismAn
autistic child, by Cindy Seigle
On a recent front page of The Salt Lake Tribune, a frightening, oversized
headline read, "Highest rate in the nation, 1 in 32 Utah boys has autism."
Less well publicized, another national story ran the same day: "New
pesticides linked to bee population collapse." If you eat food and hope to
do so a few years from now, this should be equally frightening. A common
denominator may underlie both stories.
A recent Stanford University study, examining 192 pairs of twins, where one
twin was autistic and one was not, found that genetics account for 38
percent of the risk of autism and environmental factors account for 62
Suggesting an environmental and genetic tag team are other studies showing
mothers of autistic children and autistic children themselves have a high
rate of a genetic deficiency in the production of glutathione, an
antioxidant and the body's primary means of detoxifying heavy metals.(2)
High levels of toxic metals in children are strongly correlated with the
severity of autism.(3) Low levels of glutathione, coupled with high
production of another chemical, homocysteine, increase the chance of a
mother having an autistic child to one in three, according to Dr. Jim Adams,
director of Arizona State University's Autism/Asperger's Research Program.
That autism is four times more common among boys than girls is likely
related to a defect in the single male X chromosome contributing to
antioxidant deficiency. There is no such thing as a genetic disease epidemic
because genes don't change that quickly.
So, the alarming rise in autism must be the result of increased
environmental exposures that exploit these genetic defects.
During the critical first three months of gestation, a human embryo adds
250,000 brain cells per minute, reaching 200 billion by the fifth month.
There is no chemical elixir that improves this biological miracle, but
thousands of toxic substances can cross the placenta and impair that
process, leaving brain cells stressed, inflamed, less well developed, fewer
in number and with fewer anatomic connections with each other, all of which
diminish brain function. The opportunity to make up for the resulting
deficits later on is limited.
The list of autism's environmental suspects is long and comes from many
different studies that show higher rates of autism with greater exposure to
flame retardants, plasticizers like BPA, pesticides, endocrine disruptors in
personal care products, heavy metals in air pollution, mercury and
pharmaceuticals like anti-depressants.(4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13)
(Utah's highest in the nation autism rates are matched by the highest rates
of anti-depressant use and the highest mercury levels in the country in the
Great Salt Lake.)
Doctors have long advised women during pregnancy to avoid any unnecessary
consumption of drugs or chemicals. But as participants in modern society, we
are all now exposed to over 83,000 chemicals from the food we eat, the water
we drink, the air we breathe and the consumer products we use. Pregnant
women and their children are experiencing 100 times more chemical exposures
today than people living 50 years ago. The average newborn has over 287
different chemicals and heavy metals contaminating its blood when it takes
its first breath.(14, 15) One hundred and fifty-eight of them are known to
be toxic to the brain. Little wonder that rates of autism, attention deficit
and behavioral disorders are all on the rise.
How does this relate to disappearing bees and your ability to put food on
your table? Three new studies show that the rapid rise in the use of
insecticides are likely responsible for the mass disappearance of bee
populations.(16, 17, 18) The world's entire food chain hangs in the balance
because 90 percent of native plants require pollinators to survive.
The nervous system of insects is the intended target of these insecticides.
They disrupt the bees homing behavior and their ability to return to the
hive, kind of like "bee autism." But insects are different than humans,
right? Human and insect nerve cells share the same basic biologic
infrastructure. Chemicals that interrupt electrical impulses in insect
nerves will do the same to humans.
But humans are much bigger than insects and the doses to humans are
miniscule, right? During critical first trimester development, a human is no
bigger than an insect, so there is every reason to believe that pesticides
could wreak havoc with the developing brain of a human embryo. But human
embryos aren't out in corn fields being sprayed with insecticides and
herbicides, are they? A recent study showed that every human tested had the
world's most popular pesticide, Roundup, detectable in their urine at
concentrations between five and twenty times the level considered safe for
The autism epidemic and the disappearance of bees are just two of many
self-imposed disasters from allowing our world, including Utah, to be
overwhelmed by environmental toxins. Environmental protection- including the
smallest and most vulnerable among us - is human protection.
1. Hallmayer J, Cleveland S, Torres A, et al. "Genetic Heritability and
Shared Environmental Factors Among Twin Pairs With Autism," Arch Gen
2. James SJ, Slikker W, Melnyk S, New E, Pogribna M, Jernigan S. "Thimerosol
Neurotoxicity is Associated with Glutathione Depletion: Protection with
Glutathione Precursors," NeuroToxicology 26.(2005) 1-8.
3. Adams J, Baral M, Geis E, et al. "The Severity of Autism Is Associated
with Toxic Metal Body Burden and Red Blood Cell Glutathione Levels," Journal
of Toxicology Volume 2009.(2009), Article ID 532640, 7 pages.
4. Croen L, Grether J, Yoshida C, Odouli R, Hendrick V, "Antidepressant Use
During Pregnancy and Childhood Autism Spectrum Disorders," Arch Gen
5. Volk H, Hertz-Picciotto I, Delwiche L , Lurmann F, McConnell R.
"Residential Proximity to Freeways and Autism in the CHARGE study," Environ
Health Perspect. 2010 December 13. (Epub ahead of print.) PMID: 21156395.
6. Whyatt RM, Liu X, Rauh VA, Calafat AM, Just AC, Hoepner L, et al. 2011.
"Maternal Prenatal Urinary Phthalate Metabolite Concentrations and Child
Mental, Psychomotor and Behavioral Development at 3 Years of Age," Environ
Health Perspect 120:290-295.
7. Kern J, Geier D, Adams J, Mehta J, Grannemann B, Geier M. "Toxicity
biomarkers in autism spectrum disorder: A blinded study of urinary
porphyrins," Pediatrics International. (2011) 53, 147-153 doi:
8. Miodovnik, A, SM Engel, C Zhu, X Ye, LV Soorya, MJ Silva, AM Calafat and
MS Wolff. 2011. "Endocrine disruptors and childhood social impairment,"
9. Roberts, EM et al. "Maternal residence near agricultural pesticide
applications and autism spectrum disorders among children in the California
Environmental Health Perspectives. 115(10):1482-1489.
10. Henrik Viberg anders Fredriksson, Sonja Buratovic, Per Eriksson.
"Dose-dependent behavioral disturbances after a single neonatal Bisphenol A
dose," Toxicology, 2011;
11. Whyatt RM, Liu X, Rauh VA, Calafat AM, Just AC, Hoepner L, et al. 2011.
"Maternal Prenatal Urinary Phthalate Metabolite Concentrations and Child
Mental, Psychomotor and Behavioral Development at Age Three Years," Environ
12. Holmes AS, Blaxill MF, Haley BE; "Reduced levels of mercury in first
baby haircuts of autistic children," Int J Toxicol. 2003
13. Allen J, Shanker G, Tan K, Aschner M. "The Consequences of Methylmercury
Exposure on Interactive Functions between Astrocytes and Neurons,"
14. "Body Burden - The Pollution in Newborns," Environmental Working Group,
15. Woodruff TJ, Zota AR, Schwartz JM 2011. "Environmental Chemicals in
Pregnant Women in the United States: NHANES 2003-2004," Environ Health
16. M. Henry et al. "A common pesticide decreases foraging success and
survival in honey bees," Science. doi: 10.1126/science.1215039.
17. P.R. Whitehorn et al. "Neonicotinoid pesticide reduces bumble bee colony
growth and queen production," Science. doi: 10.1126/science.1215025.
18. C. Lu, K.M. Warchol and R.A. Callahan. "In situ replication of honey bee
colony collapse disorder," Bulletin of Insectology, Vol. 65, June 2012.