Posted on July 06th, 2022
Most neurotoxic heavy metals, particularly arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury, were found to contribute to the development of autism in children. Alarmingly, a lot of baby food on the market contains these heavy metals. Environmental toxins such as toluene and polychlorinated biphenyls are also responsible for the disorder.
Occurring naturally in the environment, heavy metals can be either beneficial for the proper functioning of the body or neurotoxic, wreaking havoc on the brain and nervous system. Magnesium, zinc, and selenium are some good heavy metals, while arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury are dangerous even in trace amounts. However, it is noteworthy that a high concentration of beneficial heavy metals in the blood can also become detrimental to our health.
Infants and toddlers are vulnerable to the negative health consequences of exposure to the heavy metals lurking in baby food, as they have a higher uptake of nutrients by the gastrointestinal tract and underdeveloped detoxification systems. The congressional report made public in the winter of 2021 found seven major baby food manufacturers to exceed the safe arsenic limit by 91 times, the maximum limit for cadmium by 69 times, the safe lead limit by 177 times, and the maximum limit for mercury by 5 times.
Although baby food companies do not intentionally add heavy metals to their products, the reason why these neurotoxins are present in infant and toddler food is the failure of these manufacturers to test their raw ingredients and finished products - negligence, in other words. Crops such as wheat, rice, barley, sweet potatoes, carrots, and quinoa absorb heavy metals from the soil and water and, often, from pesticides. When baby food companies do not source their raw ingredients from farmers who practice organic agriculture, their finished products end up containing tremendous concentrations of heavy metals.
As neurotoxins, heavy metals accumulate in children's bodies, and the greater their blood concentration of arsenic, cadmium, lead, or mercury, the higher their chance of developing a form of autism becomes. Exposure to heavy metals from ingesting baby food for a long time can result in the following neurodevelopmental disorders:
The heavy metals children ingest from toxic baby food can cross the blood-brain barrier and eventually accumulate in the cerebral matter, which refers to the brain's white and gray matter. Once inside the brain, these neurotoxins create free radicals, which, in turn, lead to the production of oxidative stress. Free radicals are unstable atoms that can take a toll on cells, causing serious health problems and premature aging.
The disruption in the balance between the production of free radicals and antioxidant defenses is known as oxidative stress, and it can be very dangerous, especially to children, as it can damage proteins, DNA, and cells. As evidence supporting the link between oxidative stress and autism, numerous children on the spectrum share a chronic flaw in the body's natural defenses against free radicals.
Lead and mercury are perhaps the most harmful metals to children's neurodevelopment. While high concentrations of lead in the body of children may cause infrastructural and metabolic abnormalities within the structures of the nervous system, high mercury levels in the cerebellar areas of the brain are associated with neurotrophin-3, a marker of oxidative stress. Finally, exposure to heavy metals, both from baby food and from the environment, creates inflammation in the body, which can also contribute to the development of autism.
Currently, 1 in 36 children struggles with autism across the United States. The rate of autism has increased from 1.16% in 2007 to 2.3% in 2018.
One of the most relevant contributing factors is toxic baby food, as a 2019 study led by the non-profit organization Healthy Babies Bright Futures revealed that up to 95% of the infant and toddler food on the market contains at least one heavy metal of concern.
The following are the most dangerous heavy metals that contribute to the development of autism in children:
In addition to these four heavy metals that lurk in baby food at the moment, there are numerous others that are able to cause irreversible neurodevelopmental damage to children, such as hexavalent chromium and beryllium. Even so, the complete list of dangerous heavy metals is very long, but luckily, most are not found in places that parents and their children usually go or in objects they typically use.
Even though heavy metals from baby food are the most dangerous source of neurotoxins that can lead to autism in children, we should not underestimate the detrimental health effects of environmental toxins, which, unfortunately, cannot be avoided in most cases.
The following are the most common toxins in the environment, which have been found to contribute to the development of autism spectrum disorders:
A review of multiple studies published in Translational Psychiatry suggests a link between autism and environmental toxins, which can lead to neurotoxicity and subsequent neurological and psychiatric symptoms in children who develop the disorder. This is because exposure to environmental toxins during the neurodevelopment period may cause alterations in normal developmental patterns and impaired neurotransmitter function. Environmental toxins also increase oxidative stress, which, as previously explained, occurs in most children on the spectrum.