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Pet shampoo ingredient linked to autism

Thursday, June 5, 2008

dog_bath.jpg The cause of autism spectrum disorder is one big mystery. Lots of people have ideas as to what might cause it, but nothing is certain. That makes treating the disorder more difficult, and preventing it impossible. Many scientists agree that ASD is likely caused by a complex combination of genetics and environmental exposures.

New research demonstrates that one possible environmental factor is insecticides. In one study, mothers of children with ASD were twice as likely to have used pet shampoos containing pyrethrins, a class of insecticides commonly included in mainstream pet grooming products to kill fleas and ticks. Another study suggests that exposure during pregnancy to orgranophosphate insecticides, which have a plethora of common household and agricultural uses, may double the risk of ASD and other developmental disorders.

Why insecticides? Well, for starters, they're chemicals designed to affect the nervous system. In bugs, they result in death, but it's possible that they may be having more subtle effects on developing human nervous systems. In animal studies, pyrethrins were associated with damage to the neurons and the transmission of neural signals. Yes, this is the same stuff we put on our precious furbabies. It's possible that in-utero exposure to insecticides and other environmental toxics may activate the genes associated with autism.

So does this mean you should run and get rid of all your conventional pet shampoo right this very second? It probably wouldn't be a bad idea to switch to a natural pet care product or baby shampoo (one that scores well in Skin Deep). But this issue is larger than you and I and pet shampoo. We shouldn't find out decades down the road that chemicals we use in our everyday lives may be harmful to us, our pets, or certainly our unborn children. Something must be done on a grander scale -- and that something is the Kid-Safe Chemicals Act

Photo by Daniel Montesinos..